Oftentimes a parent does not agree with the assessments that the District has completed on their student. And, very often, a parent does not know what recourse they have under these circumstances. Therefore, this is a very important topic for all parents of a special needs’ child.
First and foremost, it is necessary for every parent to understand that when they do not agree with a District assessment, be it a psycho-educational assessment or a speech and language evaluation, or any other evaluation the District has performed, the parent can request an independent educational assessment in the same area of evaluation. This is a standard and enforceable parental right.
The most important components of requesting an independent educational assessment, also known as
an IEE, include;
- The parent must make the request (we always recommend a parent make this request
- The District is required to respond to the request within a reasonable time
- The assessment must be done by a qualified professional who is not also a District
- If the assessment is authorized, it must be at the District’s expense
- The District must offer the parent a list of possible assessors
- The parent is not obligated to use an assessor from the District’s list
- The parent is obligated to use an assessor that is qualified to perform the assessment
The District Refuses
It is possible and permissible for the District to refuse the parent’s request for an IEE. If the District refuses to agree to the request and authorize payment for the same, the District must provide the parents with a written notice of their decision to deny the request. Again, this must occur within a reasonable time of the parent’s initial request.
However, in addition to providing parent with notice as to the District’s refusal to grant and authorize payment for an IEE, the District must also file a due process complaint to defend their position. The common statement that pertains to the District’s options once a parent requests and IEE is knows as, “Fund or File.” These are the only two options the District has when responding to a parent’s request for an IEE. The District cannot simply say no to the request, they also must file a due process complaint and defend their decision.
If the District wins and the court determines that their assessment was legally sufficient, the parent can still get an independent educational evaluation, but not at the District’s expense.
The Influence of an IEE
While an IEE can be extremely helpful, it is important for a parent to understand that the District does not have to, legally, implement any recommendation contained in the IEE. This means that as long as the District and/or IEP team takes the independent assessment into consideration, the District has met their legal obligation. This point can be extremely frustrating for many parents. However, the law is very clear that the District has no obligation to follow, include or implement any recommendation made by the IEE assessor on any issues pertaining to the offer of a FAPE.
The Criteria for a Valid IEE
In addition, the District can reject an IEE if the assessment was not done in accordance with the same criteria the District uses when generating their assessments. While an IEE can exceed the criteria of a District assessment, the IEE cannot eliminate or forgo meeting the same criteria that the District assessors must meet for a legally valid assessment. Hence, it is very important to choose an independent assessor who is familiar with, and follows the criteria guidelines, for the assessment they are producing.
Consistency of a District Assessment and an IEE
Lastly, it is important for all parents who are thinking of procuring an IEE, at public expense, to keep in mind that it is possible that an IEE assessor could come to the same conclusions and recommendations that the District assessment did. And while this might not usually be the result of an independent assessment, it is possible. Therefore, if the IEE presents consistently with the District assessment, parents will have little to no recourse to continue to refuse the District’s offer of FAPE.