You are here:

Special Education/special ed student and private school


Does a private school have a right to refuse a special ed student who has been in a mainstream class with support? They told me they do. I asked them if they receive any federal money and they didn't answer. Is there a way to find this out? What is the law in this regard? Thanks much.

Hello Kylie,

It is my understanding that private school can accept or reject a child based on the school's mission, admission policy, and ability to serve the student. On the other hand, if the private school is discriminating against a child because of his or her disability, that of course would be illegal. In my experience, parents who would like the child to attend a private school, and compel that private school to accept the child, maybe disappointed in the future because the school is truly not equipped to provide the child with an appropriate education.

Here's a link to the rehabilitation act's 504 plan language, which I think you are referencing your question.

In part, it says,

Section 504 provides: "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance . . . ."

While I think these maybe two separate issues, a qualified attorney is really the best one to enter this question.

But, I did want to respond and give you a little bit of my experience when the private school rejects a child and then the parent disputes that rejection, it usually doesn't work out anyway. I often tell parents that the admission process of the school reflex and mirrors the actual school program itself. Many times, parents can use the admission process to determine how well a fit the school is for the child. In cases where the private school has rejected the child or health apparent that it cannot meet the child's needs, I often advise the parent to move on to a different option.

At the same time, I would encourage you to advocate if there are discrimination wrongs being done. I hope that, despite my referring you to an attorney for this question, it was at least a little bit helpful. Thank you so much for using the site, and I wish you all the best as you advocate for your child!

Special Education

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.


I can answer questions about disability definitions and criteria for services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, No Child Left Behind, 504 plans, how to craft an IEP that drives the appropriate services, school placement, dispute options, and least restrictive environment. I worked in the public school system as a special educator and am now in private consulting practice where we assist parents as they navigate the special education process. I have expertise in all educational disabilities except blind/visual impairments and deaf/hard of hearing. This includes ADHD and other health impairments, medical conditions, dyslexia and learning disabilities, Autism, emotional disabilities, language processing problems, and interfering behaviors.


10 years as special educator and administrator in public school system; Director of ABCs for Life Success since 1998; Expert services such as analysis and testimony; Author: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book: What you can do now to advocate for your exceptional child's education; Special Needs Advocacy Training Institute; internet radio show Teach Your Children Well: Hot Topics in Education; author School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders released March 2010 (Prufrock Press).

Masters in Special Education with Emphasis on Inclusive Education (Johns Hopkins University); Special Education (James Madison University); Conduct training for Universities, public and private schools, parent groups. Adjunct professor current George Washington University and prior George Mason University.

©2017 All rights reserved.