Illinois School Districts Refusing to Pay for Students with Disabilities, Lawsuit Says

Several school districts in the state of Illinois have been accused by the Children’s Habilitation Center (CHC) of denying services to 11 students with disabilities, forcing the center to choose between laying off staff or discontinuing services to children with disabilities if it can’t find a district to enroll the students.

The center, based in Harvey, Ill., has sued the districts for denying its students a free and appropriate education.

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“Despite every party acknowledging that the children are entitled to a free and appropriate education under the law and that some Illinois school district must enroll them, each School District is passing the buck, and the children remain without a home district and without the legally required public funding for their schooling,” the lawsuit said.

Under the suit, the CHC demands a $622,527 judgment against West Harvey-Dixmoor School District 147. The majority of the students involved in the suit previously were enrolled in that district.

Under state law, even though all of the children live at the CHC, the district their parents live in is responsible for the education of the students.

Last year District 147 was the home district of eight of the children. In the middle of the school year, it decided it would not be paying for the education of those students anymore. As of September, the district owed the CHC more than a half-million dollars.

Four other districts, as well as the Illinois State Board of Education and Chicago Public Schools, are named as defendants in the suit.

“It’s all about money from the districts’ perspective,” Christopher Grohman, an attorney for the Children’s Habilitation Center, told reporters. “They’re each pointing the finger at each other and saying it’s their responsibility, and the kids get caught in the crossfire.”