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Special Education Law: Available Remedies

Research Question 3

What remedies are available to parents during disputes?

*IDEA provides broad discretion to award damages it deems appropriate based on the preponderance of the evidence.  20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(C)(iii).  

Tuition Reimbursement

Statutory Text

If the parents of a child with a disability, who previously received special education and related services under the authority of a public agency, enroll the child in a private elementary school or secondary school without the consent of or referral by the public agency, a court or a hearing officer may require the agency to reimburse the parents for the cost of that enrollment if the court or hearing officer finds that the agency had not made a free appropriate public education available to the child in a timely manner prior to that enrollment.

20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(10)(C)(ii)


Did the IEP offered by the school district provide FAPE?

Does the private institution provide FAPE?

Reimbursement is only available if both answers are yes.

Sch. Comm. of the Town of Burlington, Mass. v.

Dep't of Educ. of the Commonwealth of Mass.,

471 U.S. 359 (1985)

Court Application

Forest Grove Sch. Dist. v. T.A., 557 U.S. 230 (2009)

R.L. v. Miami-Dade Cty Sch. Bd., 757 F.3d 1173 (2014)


Compensatory Education


Compensatory education “aim[s] to place disabled children in the same position they would have occupied but for the school district's violations of IDEA,” by providing the educational services children should have received in the first instance.

G.L. v. Ligonier Valley Sch. Dist. Authority, 802 F.3d 601 (3rd Cir. 2015)

Court Applications

Doe v. East Lyme Bd. of Educ., 790 F.3d 440 (2nd Cir. 2015)

Reid v. D.C., 401 F.3d 516 (D.C. Cir. 2005)

Attorney's Fees

Statutory Text

In general. In any action or proceeding brought under this section, the court, in its discretion, may award reasonable attorneys' fees as part of the costs to a prevailing party who is the parent of a child with a disability.

20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B)

Court Application

Endrew v. Douglas Cty Sch. Dist., 137 S. Ct. 988 (2017)

Schafffer v. Weast, 546 U.S. 49 (2005)

Sch. Comm. of Burlington v. Dep't of Educ., 471 U.S. 359 (1985)