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Request for Room and Board Expenses in IDEA Private Placement Came Too Late, Court Rules

A federal appeals court has sided against a Maine parent's request to be reimbursed by a school district for several years worth of room, board, and travel expenses stemming from her son's enrollment in three out-of-state schools under a special education plan.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, in Boston, held in a Feb. 27 opinion that the school district "was under no affirmative obligation to bring to a head the issue of whether or not it should be responsible for non-tuition expenses."

At stake in School Union No. 37 v. Ms. C was some $49,000 in room and board expenses and $3,200 in travel costs over a five-year period. The ruling suggests such expenses for an out-of-state special education placement would normally be the school district's responsibility under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

But in this case, the parent's delay in seeking reimbursement was unreasonable and cost the school district the opportunity to "clarify both its role and [the student's] special education needs under federal law," the 1st Circuit said.

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