On Thursday, September 26, 2019, Children’s Habilitation Center [“CHC”], a private facility in Harvey, Illinois, filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court claiming that “several Illinois School Districts have put their desire to save money over their legal obligation to provide a free and appropriate public education to 11 severely disabled and medically fragile children who [currently] live and go to school at CHC.” CHC provides educational and other services to children with intellectual disabilities, orthopedic impairments, traumatic brain injuries, and other severe mental and physical limitations. A majority of the children residing at CHC come from families where the parents either (1) cannot be found, (2) are sometimes reachable, but unwilling to engage, or (3) move out of Illinois and leave their children in CHC’s care.
It is this lack of parental participation that led West Harvey Dixmoor School District No. 147 in February 2019 to inform CHC that they would no longer pay for educational services that CHC provided to eight children. District 147 also refused to enroll two children who have just reached school age because their parents had not yet proved residency in the district. Then, in September 2019, Burbank School District No. 111 informed CHC that it would no longer accept enrollment of one of the children because the family had yet to prove residency for the school year, although the parents’ last known address was in District 111.
According to the School Code, the school district in which the student “resides” must pay for the student’s education. However, if a student’s parent or guardian retains legal custody, but they cannot be located or they fail to enroll the student, the student’s resident district is where the student lives. In this case, all of the students in question live in District 147.
CHC states in its complaint that it is at a point where it must either lay off staff or stop educating the 11 children. The suit mainly seeks damages from District 147 because it had enrolled the majority of the students. The suit looks to ISBE to make a decision as to who is responsible for the education of the 11 children. CHC has committed to continuing education for the 11 students as long as it can afford.