Ascertaining the adequacy, scope, and utility of district evaluations
 
by Susan Etscheidt

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) outlines several procedural safeguards for parents of students with disabilities. One of these is the opportunity to obtain an independent educational evaluation (IEE) if the parent disagrees with the evaluation conducted by the local education agency (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, [section] 1415[b][1]). The right to an IEE has become a vexing problem for school districts, and the number of due process hearings or court decisions regarding IEEs has increased every year (Freedman, 1996a). School officials, concerned with the increased frequency and cost of such evaluations, resent being "second-guessed, especially on their own dime" (Freedman, 1996c, p. 1). Yet federal regulations clearly specify both the right to an IEE and the conditions under which one may be obtained. The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has also issued policy letters addressing IEE issues.

 

An IEE is an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the public agency responsible for the education of the child in question (34 Code of Federal Regulations [C.F.R.] 300.502[a][3][i]). The public agency must provide to parents, on request, information about where an IEE may be obtained, and the agency criteria applicable for an IEE (34 C.F.R. 300.502[a] [2]). If an IEE is at 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 that the public agency uses when it initiates an evaluation, to the extent those criteria are consistent with parents' right to an IEE (34 C.F.R. 300.502[e][1]; Heir to Anonymous, 1993, 1995).

 

The parents' right to a publicly funded IEE is contingent upon their disagreement with the district's evaluation (34 C.F.R. 300.502[b]; Barretown Elementary Sch. Dist., 1998; Davila, 1990; Penn-Delco Sch. Dist., 1997; Schrag, 1990a; Smithtown Central Sch. Dist., 1998; Unified Sch. Dist. No. 259, 1999; Williams Unified Sch. Dist., 1997). Parents will not be provided a publicly funded IEE nor reimbursed for an IEE if the district has not conducted an evaluation due to parent refusal to consent:

 

 
 The right of a parent to obtain a publicly funded IEE is triggered if the 
 parent disagrees with a district-initiated evaluation. Therefore, if a 
 parent refused to consent to a proposed public evaluation in the first 
 place, then an IEE at public expense would not be available since there 
 would be no public evaluation with which the parent can disagree (34 C.F.R. 
 at 12608). 
 
  If the parent does not consent or cooperate with a district's attempt to conduct an evaluation, requests for reimbursement for an IEE may be denied (Board of Educ. of the Shenendehowa Central Sch. Dist; 1998; Conrad Weiser Sch. Dist., 1997; Marple Newtown Sch. Dist., 2001; Mount Greylock Regional Schs., 1997; Northview Pub. Sch., 1994). Parents must wait until the district had completed an agreed-upon evaluation in order to request an IEE to establish that such evaluation was deficient (Highland Local Sch. Dist., 1997; Humble Indep. Sch. Dist., 1998; Necedah Sch. Dist., 2001; West Contra Costa Unified Sch. Dist., 1998). However, if the district...