Bd. of Educ. of City Sch. Dist. of N.Y. v. Tom F.

PETITIONER: Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York
RESPONDENT: Tom F., on behalf of Gilbert F., a minor child
LOCATION: U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay

DOCKET NO.: 06-637
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 552 US 1 (2007)
GRANTED: Feb 26, 2007
ARGUED: Oct 01, 2007
DECIDED: Oct 10, 2007

ADVOCATES:
Gregory G. Garre - on behalf of the United States as amicus curiae supporting Respondent
Leonard J. Koerner - on behalf of the Petitioner
Paul G. Gardephe - on behalf of Respondent

Facts of the case

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) guarantees students with disabilities a "free appropriate public education." Tom Freston enrolled his son Gilbert in a private school for students with special needs, because the New York City school district was unable to establish an adequate "individualized education program." The school district reimbursed Freston for the private school tuition. After two years the school district offered to place Gilbert in another public school, but Freston chose to keep his son in private school and again sought tuition reimbursement from the district.

A U.S. district court ruled that the school district was not required by the IDEA to reimburse Freston, because Gilbert had never been enrolled in public school. The relevant section of the IDEA authorizes tuition reimbursement to the parents of a disabled child "who previously received special education and related services under the authority of a public agency," but it does not explicitly state that parents of children who have never received public education are not entitled to reimbursement. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the district court. By comparing the disputed section of the IDEA with other sections of the statute, the Second Circuit reasoned that the IDEA was not meant to deny reimbursement to students who have never been enrolled in public school. To rule otherwise, the Circuit Court held, would be to require parents like Freston to enroll children in inadequate public schools in order to be eligible for tuition reimbursement.

Question

Does the Individuals with Disabilities Act provide for public tuition reimbursement for private school when a child has not previously received special education from a public school?

Media for Bd. of Educ. of City Sch. Dist. of N.Y. v. Tom F.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 01, 2007 in Bd. of Educ. of City Sch. Dist. of N.Y. v. Tom F.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - October 10, 2007 in Bd. of Educ. of City Sch. Dist. of N.Y. v. Tom F.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

In case 06-637, Board of Education of the City of New York versus Tom F, the judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.

Justice Kennedy took no part in the decision of the case.