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Expert Q&A

Can the public school system refuse to evaluate a child for dyslexia because the child goes to private school?

Dear Mr. Cohen,

My son receives speech services from the public school where we live in Texas, but attends a private school. He is showing signs of dyslexia and the public school refuses to test him for dyslexia or offer services for it. (The private school does not have dyslexia services at all.) They would, however, do more special education testing. Is this legal under Section 504? Can they really deny dyslexia testing? I believe he is considered a district student by the fact that he receives services already. What is your take on this?

Thank you very much,


Dear Melinda,

Under the IDEA, public schools have an obligation to engage in child find with respect to all students who reside in their school district, even students who are enrolled in private schools. If a student is suspected of having dyslexia, the public school is obligated to evaluate that student, whether or not they end up providing services to them. The fact that the child attends a private school does not release the public school from its obligation to conduct an evaluation for special education services. Section 504 is less relevant to this issue than the IDEA, as the school district has an explicit obligation under Child Find to identify all children suspected of having disabilities.

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