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Monday, December 21, 2020

Hispanic Students and Private Placement

Where the district’s placement offer of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) is inappropriate a private school placement may be necessary and the district has to pay.

Ashley Okwuosa and Sharon Lurye of The Teacher Project at USA Today:
Nationally, Hispanic students are consistently the most underrepresented group in terms of accessing private placement. In 2019, the Teacher Project surveyed all 50 states for data on students placed at private special education schools at the public’s expense. Of the 15 states where demographic data was available, Hispanic students were significantly underrepresented in 13 of them. In Texas and California, Hispanic students make up half of the special education population but 29% and 36% of students in private placement, respectively. In Massachusetts, Hispanic students comprise nearly a quarter of the special education population but only 14% of those receiving private placement.

In New Jersey, where the number of Hispanic students has grown rapidly in many communities, the statewide gap is smaller, but that masks stark disparities at the county level. In Camden, half of special education students are Hispanic compared with 15% of those receiving private placement. In Ocean County, one-fifth of special education students are Hispanic compared with only 2% in private placement.

Two main factors cause the gaps: Parents with limited English struggle to navigate their way through a bureaucratic, technical and jargon-laden process – if they even hear about private placement. And very few private schools that serve children with special needs have language support programs.

“Families have to choose between English-as-a-second-language services and special education services,” said Jennifer Rosen Valverde, a professor at Rutgers Law School who focuses on special education.

This became even clearer as the COVID-19 pandemic upended education. Remote learning made it next to impossible for many parents to find special education and language support for their children.