Our nation's federal special education law--the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)--promotes parents' involvement in the education of their child, and it incorporates parents' and children's rights as well as certain protections for these rights. These protections are embedded in the procedures that states are required to follow as they evaluate students and provide special education services. Collectively, these protections are called procedural safeguards. One of these protections is the right to an independent educational evaluation (IEE) should parents disagree with an evaluation that has been conducted by the school district. This article provides a basic overview of the IEE provision as well as some important do's and dont's for parents.
Q. What is an IEE?
A. The language regarding IEEs is found in the regulations implementing IDEA. Specifically, the right to an IEE is defined as:
"A parent has the right to an independent educational evaluation at the public expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the public agency. However, the public agency may initiate a hearing under Reg, 300.506 of this subpart to show that its evaluation is appropriate. If the final decision is that the evaluation is appropriate, the parent still has the right to an independent educational evaluation, but not at the public expense." (34 CFR. Part 300.503 (b)
"Whenever an independent evaluation is at the public expense, the criteria under which the evaluation is obtained, including the location of the evaluation and the qualifications of the examiner, must be the same as the criteria which the public agency uses when it initiates an evaluation." (34 CFR 300.503 (e)
Q. Why would a parent wish to obtain an IEE?
A. Several reasons that parents often seek to obtain an IEE include:
* A belief that their child has an undiagnosed disability or, conversely, that their child does not have a disability.
* A belief that the school's evaluation was inadequate (lacks thoroughness).
* Disagreement about such issues as:
--the specific nature of the disability (such as other health impaired v. emotional disturbance).
--the type of services offered (such as inclusion v. self-contained).
--the qualifications of the school's evaluators (such as experience with evaluating a particular disability such as Asperger syndrome).
--a child's present level of performance and/or annual goals.
--the relative progress accomplished toward the goals.
--whether a child should continue to receive special education services.
Q. What can an IEE include?
A. An IEE can include an evaluation of educational testing, psychological testing, a social history, a speech and language evaluation, an occupational therapy evaluation, a physical therapy evaluation, and/or a functional behavioral assessment when the child's areas of suspected ability call for such evaluations.
Q. Who chooses the evaluator to conduct an IEE?
A. A parent can request information from the district about where an IEE may be obtained. Districts may provide parents with a list of qualified evaluators so long as the list is responsive to the child's needs and the list is exhaustive (OSEP letters: Fields, 1989; Thorne, 1990; Rambo, 1990; Imber, 1992). When a district fails to list all qualified evaluators within a given geographic area, the parent may choose qualified evaluators who are not listed.
A district has the right to insure that independent evaluators are minimally as qualified as its own evaluators. For example, if a district only employs Master's level Special Educators to conduct educational evaluators, it could refuse to pay for a an IEE, if the independent evaluator had completed only a Bachelor's degree in special education.
Q. Can school districts limit the cost of an IEE? …