New York City Board of Education v. Tom F.

New York City Board of Education v. Tom F., 552 U.S. 1 (2007), is a legal case in the United States. The case involves the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and tuition reimbursement. The case was granted certiorari by the Supreme Court. Oral arguments took place October 1, 2007. The Court ruled in favor of Tom F. 9 days later, on October 10, 2007, affirming the appellate court's decision with a 4-4 split. The decision did not list which justices voted which way, except that Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy did not take part. Note that as a majority of justices failed to adopt an opinion in favor of either the school district or the student, the decision of the lower appellate court, permitting tuition reimbursement, remained unaltered.

New York City Board of Education v. Tom F.
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued October 1, 2007
Decided October 10, 2007
Full case nameBoard of Education of the City School District of the City of New York v. Tom F., on Behalf of Gilbert F., a Minor Child
Docket no.06-637
Citations552 U.S. 1 (more)
128 S. Ct. 1; 169 L. Ed. 2d 1
The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Roberts
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Antonin Scalia
Anthony Kennedy · David Souter
Clarence Thomas · Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer · Samuel Alito
Case opinion
Per curiam
Kennedy took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires the U.S. states to provide students with disabilities a "free appropriate public education." Because the New York City Department of Education did not have an "Individualized Education Program" for former Viacom executive Tom Freston's son Gilbert, Freston enrolled his son in the Stephen Gaynor School, a private school for special needs students. The school district reimbursed Freston for tuition to the school. Two years later the school district offered a place for Gilbert at a different public school. Freston declined the offer and again sought reimbursement for private school tuition.

A United States district court ruled that because Gilbert had never been enrolled in public school, IDEA did not require the school district to reimburse Freston. As Oyez notes, the IDEA act "authorizes reimbursement for a child 'who previously received special education and related services under the authority of a public agency,' but it does not explicitly state that parents of children who have never received public education are not entitled to reimbursement."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the decision of the district court on August 9, 2006, reasoning by comparing the disputed section of the act with other sections that IDEA was not intended to deny reimbursement for students never enrolled in public school. The court held that upholding the district court ruling would require parents to enroll their children in inadequate public schools as a condition of eligibility for tuition reimbursement.

The school district appealed to the Supreme Court in a November 3, 2006 petition for a writ of certiorari. The Court granted certiorari on February 26, 2007. Oral arguments were scheduled for October 1, 2007.

Amicus curiae briefs were filed by:


Does the holding of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, stating that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act permits tuition reimbursement where a child has not previously received special education from a public agency, stand in direct contradiction to the plain language of 20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(10)(C)(ii) which authorizes tuition reimbursement to the parents of a disabled child "who previously received special education and related services under the authority of a public agency"?

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