Responsibilities for special education students placed in out-of-state residential programs

School administrative units (SAUs) sometimes become aware that a student in their district identified as needing special education services is being considered, with involvement by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, for residential placement out of Maine as a result of problems being experienced in the student’s home (i.e., for non-educational reasons).

Unless an Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team meeting has been recently held, the SAU should convene the student’s IEP Team to review the student’s program and determine whether there is a program within the district that offers Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to the student. If there is such a program, the SAU should make this offer of FAPE to the student’s parents. If not, the IEP Team must consider if there is a program out of district but still in the State of Maine where the student could receive FAPE, and make that offer of FAPE to the students’ parents if there is.

If the parents disagree with the SAU’s offer of FAPE, they have due process rights to challenge this determination (DHHS also can request a complaint investigation). In this scenario, the SAU will not be responsible for funding an out-of-state educational program unless a due process proceeding results in a finding that such placement is necessary in order for the student to receive FAPE. If the IEP Team’s determination, on the other hand, is that there is not a program within the district or the State of Maine that offers FAPE, then the SAU will be responsible (for the educational portion only) for funding the program.

For more information about this issue, please contact Jonathan Braff at the Maine DOE at jonathan.braff@maine.gov or 624-6674.