It is important to understand that private schools are not regulated, controlled, approved or accredited by the Florida Dept. of Education. All aspects of the educational programs at a private school are the sole responsibility of the owners of the private school. This includes teacher and administrative certification, curriculum content, and student assessments, regulations and records. Florida statutes require private schools to register with the Dept of Education and complete an annual survey; fingerprints must be submitted to FDLE for criminal background checks and keeping of attendance records are also required. If deciding to send a student to a private school ask questions and find out as much as possible about the private school before applying.
Private schools do not have to follow the regulations of IDEA which provides free and appropriate education services for students with disabilities. However, private schools that are not associated with religious institutions must follow Title III of the American Disabilities Act. Under Title III, non-religious private schools must eliminate unnecessary eligibility standards that deny access to individuals with disabilities, make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that deny access to individuals with disabilities—unless a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program would result. Also, they must furnish auxiliary aids such as interpreters, notetakers, or readers when necessary to ensure effective communication—unless it is an undue burden or a fundamental alteration would result.
Many private schools in Palm Beach County provide services for students with disabilities. Some of the private schools work only with specific types of disabilities and there are some that only provide accommodations. The Florida Private School Directory provides a listing of registered private schools by county, scholarships available, and type of school affiliation. For the Directory Click Here
ESE Services in Private Schools:
The school district provides limited services for students with disabilities in a parentally placed non-profit private schools. These services include limited supplemental Reading, speech and language therapy by school district certified ESE teachers and district contracted licensed Speech Language Pathologist.
How can a parent/caregiver gain access to this service?
ESE services in a private school have to be initiated by the parent. The parent should contact the ESE Dept Private School Services, 561- 434-8287, if their child is already identified as a student with a disability. The school district will set up a meeting with the parent and school to develop a service plan rather than an IEP. The non-profit private school must sign a cooperative agreement with the school district before anything can be started. Each year, the Private School Services team of the ESE Dept holds a meeting for parents and administrators of private schools to share what services can be provided by the ESE Private School Team.
Determining Need for ESE services:
In order for any child to be evaluated interventions must be tried and documented using the Multi-Tiered System of Supports or MTSS process to determine if there is a need for further testing. If a parent who is sending their child to a private school is concerned about the child’s educational progress and if there is a suspicion of a Specific Learning Disability or a Language Impairment, the parent may request an evaluation by contacting the Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Private School Dept. of the school district in which the private school is located. For Palm Beach County School District contact the ESE Private School team at 561- 434-8287. If found eligible for ESE services, only students enrolled by the parent in a non-profit private school will be provided services for reading or speech and language therapy. If needing more services the parent should consider enrolling in a private school for the specific disability, a charter school or the public school nearest to home.
Questions or observations recommended to parents to investigate before selecting a private school:
The Florida Dept. of Education provides a website fldoe.org, with a list of considerations when choosing a private school. Here are some of the questions suggested to ask when visiting private schools: Click Here
- Does the purpose and philosophy of the school meet the needs of the child?
- Do all teachers and administrators hold a four year college or university degree?
- Does the school have a good relationship between teachers, administrators and with parents?
- Is there evidence of strong leadership in the school as reflected in the general cleanliness of the school, by the appearance and attitudes of the students, and the availability to answer questions of parents?
- What testing programs are used to measure student progress? How do student results compare to other schools and with national and statewide norms?
- There are many accrediting organizations for private schools and many private schools that are not accredited at all. It is wise to check with the college, university, or prospective employers to determine whether or not they accept diplomas and transcripts from a specific private school.
- What is the financial stability of the school?
- What are the policies and practices concerning tuition payments?
- What are the expectations of student conduct?
- What are the methods of communication between home and school?
Recommended websites, YouTube videos, books on this topic:
Florida dept of education. K-12 private schools.
National association of independent schools. Americans with disabilities act and independent schools. August 2011.
Pacer center, inc., ACTion sheet:PHP-c51c. ADA q&a: back to school. 2019. Pacer.org.
Palm beach county school district. Student progression plan 2017-18. Part IV. Policies and procedures for parentally-placed private school students with disabilities. Pp 75 – 78.
US dept of education. State regulation of private schools. 2009. Pp 51 – 56.
Weatherly, julie j. ESE update on two “hot” IDEA topics: the child find and evaluation process and discipline of students with disabilities. Florida administrators’ management meeting (AMM). September 2015.
Written By: Iris Neil