Unilateral vs. Parental Placement

School Districts often use words or phrases interchangeably that do not mean the same thing. You have likely seen the phrases "Unilaterally Placed" and "Parentally Placed" on your child's IEP or documents. Some parents may assume that these are just technical ways of saying that the student is in a private school, but as often is the case with the school district, it is a more complicated than that. Read on to understand the meaning of each phrase and the distinction.

The key is to remember these three points:

1. Parental placement means you are going to pay for the private school or program yourself at your own expense, and will not be looking for funding or reimbursement from the district.

2. A Unilaterally placed child has been put in a private program because of the district's failure to provide a FAPE ("free appropriate public education"). Therefore, his or her parents intend to seek funding/reimbursement.

3. When placing your child in a private program for which you intend to seek reimbursement, always state - in writing - that you are willing to consider any appropriate placement for your child, and you are moving them to xyz private school unless and until an appropriate public program is offered to them. When in doubt, consult an attorney. It is usually time to hire a lawyer when you are considering seeking reimbursement.

For additional questions about placing your child in a private program, the technical terminology used on documents from the district, or any other inquires contact me at jennifer@ratclifflaw.org or 646-741-3030. In the meantime, you can also consult our glossary.

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