Can My Student Get An IEP In A Private School?

by | Jan 17, 2023

With the state of our educational system in flux, many parents are opting to move their students to private schools. But what happens when your student with a disability has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and moves to a private school? Will they still get accommodations based on their IEP assessment? Is there a requirement for an IEP in private school? What is an ISP in a private school? Scroll down to learn about these differences and steps you can take to assist your student. 

What is an Individualized Services Plan or ISP?

An Individualized Services Plan or ISP is a document a public school creates to support a student with special needs in a parentally-placed private school setting. In other words, if you choose to place your student in a private school, a public school may offer an ISP to support your student in the private school setting. 

If a district offers an ISP, services will not look the same as in an IEP. An ISP may be implemented by a public school district and offer Specialized Academic Instruction (SAI), speech services, etc., but at much fewer hours than an IEP. For example, if a student with special needs with an IEP receives 120 minutes per week of reading instruction for dyslexia, that same student might only receive 60 minutes per month consultation for reading instruction.

Services are also likely going to be made available (not “provided”) at the public school site, not the private school site. 

What is the difference between an IEP and ISP?

A public school district is required to provide an IEP to students who have one or more of the 13 federal handicapping conditions whose disability causes a significant negative impact on educational performance and, therefore, the student requires special education and related services. The special education and related services are to be provided by the district to the family at no cost to the family and typically are provided at the student’s school of residence.

A district may provide an ISP to a student whose parent places them in a private school, even if they have an identified federal handicapping condition. Notice I said “may’. A school district is not required to offer every student with special needs who attends a private school an ISP. School districts must set aside funding for students with special needs. Once that funding is exhausted each year, the district does not have to offer any other ISPs.

District is required to offer it to students who:
• Have an identified federal handicapping condition.
• The disability has a significant negative impact on educational performance.
• Which requires special education and related services.
District may offer it to a student meeting the same criteria as an IEP, but is not obligated to do so once its annual funding for ISPs is exhausted.
Districts are required to provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).Districts are required to provide equitable access.
Services are provided typically at the student’s school of residence unless the IEP states otherwise.Services are provided at the student’s school of residence, not the private school. Parent will be expected to transport student and pay any out-of-pocket transportation expenses to the public school for services.
District is required to provide services, all services, determined to be needed for a student to have a FAPE.District is only required to make services available to the student, not provide them. Services available will not be the same as on the IEP (ie consultation instead of direct services; speech/language but no OT).
No cost to families to receive special education and related services.Although the services in the ISP are available to the student at no cost, the private school may charge for its own special education services or similar supports.
IEP must be reviewed annually with a re-evaluation every 3 years.ISP must be reviewed “to the extent appropriate” as often as the IEP. No requirement on how often the ISP must be updated.

What are a private school’s IEP requirements? Do private schools have IEPs?

The short answer: none and no. A private school is not required to implement an IEP. There is no private school IEP.  Nor is a private school required to have such a document or similar process. 

Why? Most private schools do not receive federal funding. Only schools that receive funding are required to follow the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Private schools may choose to offer special education support. This may look like a learning center, tutoring or even speech services. However, when you transition your student with an IEP to a private school, the private school will not be obligated to implement the IEP.

Private schools are also allowed to charge additional fees for the special education or similar supports they offer. Again, because they don’t accept federal funds, they are not required to provide your student with a FAPE. 

My student has an IEP. What happens To The IEP when my student moves to a private school?

When you move your student with an IEP to a private school, the IEP disappears as far as the private school is concerned. You should let the private school know that your student had an active IEP with the public school system and provide them with a copy. If the private school has supports available, you can access them and/or contact the school district to ask for an ISP. Again, the private school is under no obligation to follow or implement the IEP unless it receives federal funding.

What if I decide to return my special needs student to the public school? Will my student still have an IEP?

Yes. Under the “stay put” provision of the IEP, if you return your student to the public school system, the last consented-to IEP will be considered the valid IEP. The school district will need to implement that IEP for 30 days under an “administrative placement”. During that 30 day time period, the District may want to do an IEP assessment for your student to ensure the IEP is providing a FAPE. After 30 days, the IEP team is required to hold a meeting to create a new IEP based on their assessment data, adjusting goals, services and accommodations as needed. Make sure when you register your student for the public school that you tell them your student has special needs and an IEP.

This all sounds really complicated. Where can I go for help?

Navigating the special education system, even for a private school, to ensure your student with special needs is launching toward success can be overwhelming. Educational advocates and consultants can assist you in understanding the process and working with the school district to determine if an ISP is available. At AdvocacySD, we can also assist if your student is re-entering the public school system to ensure their rights are maintained and they are receiving a FAPE. Need more information on why you may want to hire an educational advocate? Check out our blog post here. You can also reach out through our contact form to schedule a complimentary 30 minute consultation to learn more about your options.