Evaluations of your disabled child are critical to your child’s success in school and life. If done properly, they can provide insights into services, therapies and accommodations that your child needs to access a “free appropriate public education” or FAPE. But if not done properly, it can prevent your child from ever getting a proper education and destroy his/her future.
If your child is eligible for an IEP, his/her IEP must accurately reflect a child’s “present levels of academic achievement and functional performance” or PLAAFP. 20 U.S.C. §1414(d)(3); Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U.S. 49, 53, 126 S.Ct. 528, 163 L.Ed.2d 387 (2005) (“Each IEP must include an assessment of the child’s current educational performance, must articulate measurable educational goals, and must specify the nature of the special services that the school will provide.”) An IEP must address all of the student’s needs, which should be detailed in the PLAAFP part of the IEP.
How to make sure the PLAAFP is accurate
The only way a PLAAFP is accurate (and then the goals are appropriate) in an IEP is to make sure the evaluations of your child are valid and accurate.
The main body of IDEA 2004 enables schools to perform evaluations of children with disabilities. See 20 U.S.C. §1414. That section talks about initial evaluations and reevaluations and how they are performed and used by school district personnel in making special education decisions, like IEPs.
What if the school’s evaluations are not accurate or finding what you or your child’s doctor suspect?
If a school’s assessments are not matching what you have observed or your child’s outside medical personnel are documenting, you may need to get independent evaluations of your child. But that is expensive, especially if your insurance doesn’t cover them.
Perhaps one of the more important sections of IDEA is found in the federal regulations. 34 C.F.R. §300.502 is the regulation for Independent Educational Evaluations or “IEEs”. Here are the most critical portions:
- “The parents of a child with a disability have the right under this part to obtain an independent educational evaluation of the child” subject to some rules.
- “A parent has the right to an independent educational evaluation at public expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the [school] . . . .”
- “If a parent requests an [IEE] at public expense, the [school] MUST, without unnecessary delay, either (i) File a due process complaint . . . or (ii) Ensure that an [IEE] is provided at public expense unless the [school] demonstrates in a [due process hearing] that the evaluation obtained by the parent did not meet agency criteria.”
The most important parts of this are that (a) the parents have a RIGHT to request an IEE if they disagree with the school’s evaluation; (b) the IEE must be at public [the school district’s] expense; (c) the school district has ONLY two options – to enable the IEE or to challenge it via a due process hearing. Very simple.
The school district’s delay tactics
But, the school districts want to try to make this more difficult. How? They delay, delay, delay in responding to a request for an IEE. They believe this is defensible because of the clause “without unnecessary delay.” The school district will argue that a few days, a few weeks, even a few months is not unnecessary delay. The courts have not really dealt with this issue decisively yet. I think it is a very fair counterargument by the parents that a few days is OK, but a few weeks or longer is not OK. After all, the further an IEE is delayed, the further a revised or improved IEP is delayed, and thus the further the child’s FAPE is delayed.
Do NOT allow a school district to linger on your request for an IEE. If you have valid reasons to request an IEE, keep sending reminders to the school of your request. If they delay too long, contact a special education lawyer or file a due process complaint on your own on this ground.
If you wish to demand an IEE for your child, download our FREE special education forms packet which includes a letter IEE demand.