In 1995, Gilbert Freston, a 5-year-old boy with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was enrolled at New York City’s private Stephen Gaynor School where he could receive an education specially tailored to his needs.
His parents had decided the New York City Board of Education’s proposal to place Gilbert in a city special education program was unsatisfactory.
Citing the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, his parents sought reimbursement for the private tuition â€” $21,819 a year â€” from the board.
The backbone of the act is the principal that parents can seek reimbursement for private schools costs, if the public school is unable to provide for the specialized needs of students.
But Gilbert’s father, Tom Freston, is not your average father. He is one of the founders of MTV and the recently ousted Viacom CEO, who took a buyout of $84 million in 2006. The city denied the request for reimbursement, arguing that because Gilbert was never enrolled in its school system, the Frestons had never given public education a chance.
In a legal battle that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, Freston won his case this week, signaling a victory for special-needs parents everywhere, but posing the stickier ethical questions about whether public dollars should pay for private education.