Is Public School District Obligated to Provide Speech Therapy to a Child While Enrolled at a Private School ?

In Veschi v. Northwestern Lehigh School District, 772 A.2d 469 (Pa. Cmwlth.) appeal denied, 567 Pa. 753, 788 A.2d 382 (2001), the parents of a child with speech and language disabilities appealed a Department decision holding that the public school district was not obligated to provide speech and language therapy services to the child while he was enrolled at a private, parochial school. The parents in Veschi did not seek tuition reimbursement for their son's private school education and did not seek to have the therapy provided at the non-public school; rather, they requested provision of services to their son at the school district facility while he still attends his parochial school (dual enrollment). The parents in Veschi argued that they had a constitutionally protected right to decide where their child went to school, see Pierce v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, 268 U.S. 510, 69 L. Ed. 1070, 45 S. Ct. 571 (1925), and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 32 L. Ed. 2d 15, 92 S. Ct. 1526 (1972), and they asserted that where the school district had determined that their son needed certain Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)-related services, the school district had an obligation under the IDEA to provide those services at the public school without requiring their son to forego his private school enrollment. The Court agreed and held that a private school student can be dually enrolled in order to receive IDEA-related services provided at a district school that would be conducting those services for public school children. The court noted that the IDEA was intended to provide handicapped children both an appropriate education and a free education, and the IDEA should not be interpreted to defeat one or the other of these objectives. Veschi (citing School Committee of Town of Burlington v. Department of Education of Massachusetts, 471 U.S. 359, 85 L. Ed. 2d 385, 105 S. Ct. 1996 (1985)).