NYLJ: City Told to Pay School Directly for Disabled Child’s Tuition Under IDEA

Mr. and Mrs. A v. New York City Department of Education, 09 Civ. 5097 (PGG)

U.S. District Court, Southern District

City Told to Pay School Directly for Disabled Child’s Tuition


This case presents the following question of first impression:


1. When a child with disabilities has been denied a free and appropriate public education; and


2. the child’s parents have enrolled the child in an appropriate private school; and


3. the equities favor an award of the costs of private school tuition; but


4. the parents, due to a lack of financial resources, have not made tuition payments but are legally obligated to do so;


does this Court’s authority under Section 1415(i)(2)(C)(iii) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. 1415 (i)(2)(C)(iii), “to grant such relief as the court determines is appropriate,” include the power to order a school district to make a retroactive tuition payment directly to the private school? The New York City Department of Education and its Chancellor, defendants herein, contend that IDEA grants courts no such authority, arguing that the private school tuition remedy is available only to parents with the financial means to pay–in the first instance–private school tuition out-of-pocket. This Court concludes that imposing such a limitation on this remedy is inconsistent with the statutory language and with Supreme Court jurisprudence interpreting IDEA, and would be entirely antithetical to Congress’s clearly expressed legislative intent and purpose in enacting IDEA.