Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Aug 04
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by Doug Goldberg

How does a parent, who doesn’t have a degree in their child’s suspected disability, fight for the proper amount of services when the school specialist is recommending something less than the parent thinks is necessary.

The parent could always get a private assessment done and submit the results to the IEP team, but not all parents have the means to pay for a private assessment.  This is why IDEA allows parents to ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at public expense.  The only way a School District can stop from paying for an IEE is to file for due process and convince a hearing officer that their original assessments were proper.  IDEA is very clear in what a School District must do if they turn down a request for an IEE but it’s what happens when the School District says yes that can sometimes bother me the most.

Once a School District approves an IEE they will send an approval letter with three or four assessor’s names.  Below are excerpts from two different approval letters:

  1. The District has agreed to fund you request for an IEE.  The following are possible independent assessors.
  2. Per your request, your child, will receive an IEE at District Expense.  Enclosed are the names, addresses and telephone numbers of assessors from which you should choose to conduct the assessment.

The Parents have no obligation to choose an assessor from the District list but rather just need to find an assessor that is qualified.  The first letter makes it clear that these are only possible assessors while the second letter implies the parents must choose from the attached list.  While it might be easier to choose from the District list, because you know that the District can’t question their qualifications, how do you know they are truly independent.

When you call the assessors on the list to ask about qualifications you should also ask some additional questions:

  1. Do you have a contract with the District?
  2. If yes, how can you be independent and does that contract limit what you are allowed to put in the assessment report?
  3. Will you put recommendations in your assessment report including time and frequency?

These questions were asked of all of the assessors from both of the approval letters mentioned above.  The first list of assessors, from the letter that referred to them as possible assessors, went very well.  All of them said they do not have a contract with the District and since they are being hired to do an IEE they do not work for either the District or the Parents when writing the assessment.  They all agreed they would include specific recommendations because otherwise the IEE would be useless.

The second set of calls, as you may have expected, did not go so well.  These assessors were from the list the District claimed must be used.  Each and every assessor on the list stated that the District has told them they are not allowed to include any recommendations in the assessment report for time or frequency.  If they do include time and frequency the District will no longer give out their names as a potential assessor.  Furthermore, two out of the four names on the list had master contracts with the District.  These names were no more independent then the actual school district employees.

As you can see, just because you have been approved for an IEE does not mean it will automatically be independent.  When in doubt, find an assessor on your own or make sure you are diligent in your questioning of the list of assessors given by the District.

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7 Responses to “A Tale of Two IEE’s”

  1. We’ve had two IEE’s done at district expense … both ruled against the district. With the first one, the district refused to adhere to the recommendations (they actually said that while being taped). In the second one, there was gross conflict of interest between the special education director and the evaluator … which neither chose to disclose when asked. The special ed director made plans for her close personal friend to benefit from the evaluation by committing $46,000 in education funds but, when cost of doing that outside the evaluator’s program for half that price was requested (same curriculum), the evaluator withdrew her recommendations.
    Somehow, we’ve been identified as being the problem instead of misusing taxpayer funding for personal gain being identified as the real problem.
    (insert wistful sigh)

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  2. I should add that the current district’s special education director managed to ignore that second IEE for a year and a half until it expired (claiming there was no current data to so much as determine eligability with) and now neither she nor the state’s education agency can ‘find’ that IEE … she’s refused to accept our recomendation for a proposed evaluator who doesn’t have conflict of interest with either party and refuses to take this to a due process hearing where she can show the inpdependence/qualifications of people she claims are qualified but has managed not to name so we can verify qualifications.
    She’s too busy pretending the law requires her to move forward with her own personnel – who’ve not chosen to so much as meet the students in the year and a half it’s been their obligation to do so.

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  3. I’m always suspicious when an independent evaluator is included on a district’s (or SELPA’s) list but that doesn’t mean they can’t do an appropriate IEE (that’s not biased.) Parents can ask other parents (& advocates) who they’d recommend. They may also do a search of recent DP decisions to determine who’s possibly in bed with who. Whenever a district insists a parent choose from their list, I give them a copy of the OSEP Policy letter to Alice Parker. There’s good info on the Wrightslaw site: http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/test.eval.choice.osep.htm

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  4. Our request for an IEE was just approved, and the district provided us with three names. The way the letter reads, it does seem like we are supposed to use one of the three, but I know we are not obligated to do so, and frankly, I’m more than slightly suspicious of anyone recommended by the district for fear that they are district lackeys and/or in the district pocket. I’m not saying that I unequivocally won’t use one of those people (I’ve actually heard very positive things about one of them), but I’m not blindly going to accept who they say.

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  5. Be careful even if you choose the evaluator. I chose the evaluator and didn’t realize until after the testing started that the school put in the contract that I couldn’t speak with the evaluator. It was absurd! I am the parent but other than bringing my child could have no contact. They also wouldn’t allow the evaluator come to the PPT. There was a pre meeting to discuss the results. Districts can be very sneaky. It took 1 1/2 years to be identified. They didn’t follow the recommendations of the evaluator (the law says they must consider not follow) and 3 years later we are still fighting for appropriate services. There need to be better laws to protect our children and less expensive ways for parents to assure they are being followed. Lawyers are too expensive!

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  6. When I do an IEE, I do the same evaluation with extensive recommendations that I do for any evaluation I do. Even though the county recognizes and may recommend me, I do not have any instructions from them and I try to do an evaluation that has the tests that each child needs and the recommendations that will help them regardless of what the school system believes about the disability. My main goal is to help the child by identifying strengths and weaknesses. I am also available for parents to help them with the process of identifying needs in the classroom and support systems.

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  7. We just had an IEP meeting where we presented the results of our IEE. Now the school wants to do additional testing. They didn’t disagree with the IEE results out loud, but I know their evals will show what they want them to show.

    If their evals find the same things they found before, I can disagree and get another IEE, but I cannot imagine putting my child through two more rounds of evaluations.

    What should I do? I cannot find any references to this happening in any other case. Thanks.

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