School Evaluations And Independent Evaluations FAQ
These answers to parents’ common questions are our attempt at Hickman Lowder to simplify the law. Parents should be mindful that these answers are intended to provide broad, general information about the law but not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, parents are urged to seek advice from an attorney.
My child is struggling in school. How do I find out if they are eligible for special education services?
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the first step in qualifying your child for special education is having the school complete a multifactored evaluation team report (ETR) to assess them in all areas of functioning. You can request an evaluation by delivering a written request to your special education director, principal or other school official by email or certified mail with return receipt requested.
No. The school must evaluate only if it suspects a disability. If it suspects a disability, it will obtain your written consent for an evaluation. If your school is not going to honor your request for an evaluation, it must, within 30 days of your request, give you a legal document, called a prior written notice (PR-01), explaining why it is not going to evaluate your child, and it must give you a copy of the booklet, “A Guide to Parent Rights in Special Education.”
The school must obtain written parental consent within 30 days of a parent’s request. Once consent is given, it has an additional 60 days to complete the evaluation and have a team meeting to discuss the results contained in the ETR.
If you disagree with the evaluation, you may request an independent educational evaluation (IEE). An IEE is one of the most important procedural safeguards available to parents under the IDEA because it provides an independent view of the child at the school district’s expense.
You must inform the school district in writing that you disagree with its evaluation (though you are not required to explain why), and request an IEE. If the school does not want to provide you with an IEE, it must promptly initiate due process proceedings to prove that its own evaluation is appropriate (which rarely occurs).
Assuming the school does not initiate and win due process, you are entitled to an IEE. You should ask the school for its IEE policies and a list of recommended independent evaluators, but you may select your own independent evaluator, regardless of whether this person is on the school’s list. Some schools have policies that limit IEEs according to the independent evaluator’s location or qualifications, but these policies are valid only if they do not interfere with the child’s right to an IEE. Only one IEE is permitted per school evaluation.
Sometimes, a district will offer to conduct an early reevaluation instead of approving an IEE. Depending on the circumstances, this might be a reasonable alternative. If you agree to an early reevaluation, you still retain the right to have an IEE following the reevaluation.
The school district will either assume upfront responsibility for payment and will issue a purchase order or the parent may obtain the IEE, cover the costs initially and present proof of payment to the school district for reimbursement. In situations where school districts refuse the cost of the IEE, parents can consider meeting with their superintendent, filing a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education or, if necessary, consulting an advocate or attorney about taking further steps.