Parents sometimes call me with questions about independent educational evaluations. Commonly known as IEEs, these are evaluations conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the public agency responsible for the education of the child in question.
A recent letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSEP) answers a few of these parent questions. The letter refers to relevant sections of the IDEA, which is the federal law that ensures that students with disabilities are provided with a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Under the IDEA, in evaluating a child, a public agency, such as a school district, must ensure that the evaluation is sufficiently comprehensive to assess the child in all areas related to the suspected disability, and must identify all of the child’s special needs. For instance, if the school district suspects that the child may have a speech and language impairment, as part of its evaluation, the school district must provide the child with an assessment to determine the child’s speech and language needs.
If a parent disagrees with the evaluation conducted by the public agency, under the IDEA, the parent has a right to seek an IEE at public expense. Once the parent requests an IEE, the public agency must either initiate a hearing to show that its evaluation was appropriate or provide the IEE. In the latter case, the IEE must meet agency criteria.
More specifically, the recent letter issued by OSEP answers the question of whether once a parent expresses a desire that a child be assessed in an area in which the child was not previously assessed, would the school district have the opportunity to conduct an evaluation before the child’s parent invokes his or her right to an independent educational evaluation. OSEP concludes that it would be inconsistent with the IDEA to allow a public agency to conduct an assessment in an area that was not part of the initial evaluation or reevaluation to show that its evaluation was appropriate.
OSEP reasons that the IDEA affords a parent the right to an IEE at public expense and does not condition that right on the public agency’s ability to cure the defects of the evaluation it conducted prior to granting the parent’s request for an IEE.
Martha Millar--special education attorney
Serving families in California
Martha Millar Law