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:
- The District has agreed to fund you request for an IEE. The following are possible independent assessors.
- 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:
- Do you have a contract with the District?
- If yes, how can you be independent and does that contract limit what you are allowed to put in the assessment report?
- 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.