Dear ADDitude

Dear ADDitude: Can a Private School Deny My Daughter a 504?

“Should we reveal our daughter’s ADHD in her private-school application? Can this decrease her chances of getting in? Is a private school obligated to provide 504 Plan accommodations?”

ADDitude Answers

This is a tough decision. If I were in that situation, I’d disclose my child’s ADHD. I would look for a school that actually understands ADHD and how children with ADHD learn. If a school decides not to accept her, based on her having ADHD, it wouldn’t haven’t been a good fit, as they were not willing to accommodate those with special needs. Some private schools do well with children with ADHD and LD, and some do not.

As to the your questions about private schools and 504 plans, if a school does not receive funds form the federal government, it is not bound to supply IEPs. However, a school can’t discriminate against a student based on a disability, and, therefore, is bound by Section 504. It might be required to supply at least some accommodations or modifications.

Posted by Eileen Bailey
Freelance writer, author specializing in ADHD, anxiety, and autism

ADDitude Answers

Private schools are exempt from the requirements of IDEA and Section 504 laws we have in the US to protect kids with learning differences/disabilities (unless they receive a certain level of federal funding, which is rare).

I cannot answer your question on their ability to deny acceptance based on ADHD, but they probably can. Be sure to ask for their handbook and all written policies to see if they prohibit special needs students. I would still be open and honest about it though – you don’t want her in a school that will not support her needs.

This is confusing, and some is left up to interpretation. My experience is that private schools can pretty much do what they want. My son was in a private placement that looked like a great fit on paper and was FULLY informed about his needs with every test and evaluation report done over 5 years, and they still asked us to pull him out after 6 weeks. It was the worst experience he’s ever had and crushed him, destroying what little confidence he had.

Here’s a bit more on finding the right school:
From Understood

From the US Department of Education.

And 10 Myths About Special Education Law, from ADDitude.

Posted by Penny
community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

Hello! My children have attended private school, and my understanding is that they do not have to follow any 504 plan.

However, that being said, many private schools have special programs that will help you daughter. You will have to have your school district administer the evaluation and then create the IEP and 504. That may help you get her extended test time, or other helpful accommodations. My school district took forever to schedule and provide results – my son missed an entire school year. Not to mention they tested him three times before diagnosing.

If she does well in school without accommodations, then there may be no reason to tell the school about the ADHD. If she needs to take an entrance exam, you may want to ask for extended time, but they might require something from your school district. I would call the admissions office to ask how to handle it.

Choose the school carefully because not all are accommodating – our small Catholic elementary school’s “help” was brutal. Singling the child out, putting egg timers on the desk, moving him to principal’s office for tests. But they never gave him the extra time or allowed for any of the IEP recommendations because they said they didn’t have the resources. I regret staying there.

High school was completely different and a wonderful experience for him. They had a learning specialist he met with each day. He is given support without stigma – but they do not follow the IEP either.

Posted by lmiller

A Reader Answers

Private schools are not held to the same standards as public schools (which are governed more closely), which is why public schools can sometimes (not always) be better for special needs kids – it’s easier to enforce the law in a public school. Here is information on the actual law as it pertains to private schools.

Posted by SpottedFoxx

A Reader Answers

I don’t know if it varies by state, but we are in a private school in Indiana and have an IEP (Aspergers and ADHD). Because we are choosing a private school when a public school option is available, our son can have only one service provided to him (speech therapy, OT, PT, etc). However; that is the only difference I can see. All other accommodations must be provided and followed! No questions asked! Our school must follow the rules set forth by the state. And a teacher does not have the ability to choose to not follow an IEP, if one is set up. Our school is accredited by the state and if they want to stay that way they will follow the rules and follow all IEPs! All other accommodations completely apply to him as they would if he were in public school – he is able to take tests in a small group setting, have extra time (on timed tests such as standardized tests), have extra breaks, etc.

If it’s something your child needs, do not in any way hesitate to ask. Especially in a private school where you are paying tuition! My son’s teacher and I have a good relationship and can easily work out what needs to be done even though we have the official IEP for the “big things.”

Posted by supportmom

A Reader Answers

I would be honest and not hold back from what is going on with her. My son has ADHD and a processing disorder; he also goes to a private school where my husband works. This school has a stellar reputation and was recently recognized by a major publication for top 100 schools in the nation. Yes – that proves great for the average learner, but it is a challenge for my son since they don’t have learning specialists there to help teachers differentiate for those out-of-box learners. It can be stressful and anxiety-inducing for us all. Honestly, if kids don’t keep up, they kick them out. My son is bright, so the challenge of curriculum is good, but honestly I think they keep him because my husband is a valued employee.

The moral of this story is that private is not always better for our kids. They are not obligated to work with our unique learners. If you really want to look into private schools, you should deeply investigate the schools you are applying to, be honest with them, and make sure they are willing to accommodate her learning style. The last thing you want to do is set her up for failure.

Posted by jaybird1

A Reader Answers

Since private schools are not under obligation to follow the 504 anyway, you may want to think as to whether or not a private school is the best course of action for her.

My son attended a private school for a small amount of time that was completely opposed to assisting him with his learning needs and not appropriately ready to do so. It ended in disaster, with us pulling him out halfway through the second school year – and after he was yelled at repeatedly and made to feel very unwelcome.

Honestly, it would be best to be as honest and forthright as possible about your daughter’s diagnosis and needs to ensure they are prepared and willing to take her on – otherwise it could be a very negative situation for her. If they are open and willing to assist her with her needs, it would be the most positive outcome. If she does not get in because of her ADHD, it would probably be for the best as she won’t get the educational opportunity she needs and deserves otherwise.

Posted by Havebeenthere