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BOOK: 13 
MONTH-YEAR: February - 1996
IN RE: In re Robert T.
APPELLANT: John and Leigh T.
APPELLEE: Marion Independent School District & AEA 10
KEYWORDS: Special Education
DETAILS: Appellants sought redress due to the refusal of the District to provide a full-time instructional assistant at a private school where Robert was placed by his parents. The legal issue here is whether public education agencies such as the District and AEA have the same obligations to children with disabilities regardless of whether they attend a public or private school. Appellants argue the obligations are similar, if not the same. Appellees reject these arguments and claim broad discretion to determine which parentally-placed children in private schools will receive special education and related services as well as the extent and nature of those services.
  The case law that is directly relevant to this matter falls into 2 camps with dramatically different interpretations of the IDEA requirements regarding parentally-placed private school students.  One camp is formed by interpretations of 3 seprate Federal District Court decisions that required public education agencies to provide essentially the same special education and related services in private schools as were specified in the IEP providing FAPE in the public school setting.  The other camp is formed by one case that has advanced to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals that preserves the OSEP interpretation of the IDEA.
  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit affirmed that the IDEA does not require a public education agency to provide a cued speech transliterator for a parentally-placed private school student with a profound hearing loss (Goodall v. Stafford Co. Sch. Bd., 22 IDELR 972, 1995).  Although this service COULD have been provided without violating the 1st Amendment Establishment Clause according to ZOBREST, the 4th Circuit affirmed its earlier ruling that the public school was NOT compelled to provide the service by the IDEA (Goodall v. Stafford Co. Sch. Bd., 17 EHLR 745, 1991).
  The lead case representing an expanded interpretaiton of the public education agencys responsibilities to parentally-placed students with disabilities in private schools has facts similar to this case (K.R. by M.R. v. Anderson Comm. Sch. Corp., 887 F. Supp. 1217 (S.D. Ind. 1995)). In both the crucial service as issue was the provision of a full-time instructional assistant to assist a child with mobility and communication.  In both, the instructional assistant would have been provided as specified in the IEP offering FAPE if the child attended the public school.
  The law clearly remains unsettled regarding the extent and nature of the responsibilities of public education agencies to parentally-placed, private school students with disabilities. Appellants construction if applied to programs would mean that a state-funded compensatory education program for economically disadvantaged students would have to provide comparable benefits to parentally-placed private school students who also were economically disadvantaged if any federal funds were used as part of this program. The record in this case does not permit analysis of the degree to which the District and AEA met all of the requirements of IDEA. The related-services provided now likely meet the requirement of comparable benefits from the federally-funded IDEA monies as that responsibility is understood.
OUTCOMES: Appellants claims are denied regarding the responsibility of the District and the AEA to pay for the full-time instructional assistant at the private school.  Appellees prevailed on all substantive issues in this proceeding.