On March 8, 2017 (forms dated March 2, 2017), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received complaints under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the XXXXX School District. This is the department’s decision regarding these complaints. The issue is whether the district, during the 2016-17 school year, improperly denied a parent’s request for independent educational evaluations (IEEs) for three students with disabilities.
An IEE is an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not an employee of the student’s school district. The parents of a student with a disability are entitled to an IEE at no cost to them when they disagree with school district’s evaluation of their child. Parents are entitled to only one publicly funded IEE for each assessment performed by a school district examiner with which they disagree. An IEE at public expense is available to parents each time the local educational agency conducts an evaluation. School districts must respond to a parent’s request for an IEE in a reasonable amount of time and in a manner that does not interfere with the child’s right to receive a free appropriate public education. School districts must either provide the IEE at public expense or request a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate. School districts may establish qualifications requiring IEE examiners to hold or be eligible to hold the same licensure as its own staff. However, school districts may not impose other conditions or timelines on parents’ requests for IEEs at public expense.
The three students who are subjects of this complaint are siblings. During the spring of 2015, the parent requested an IEE for each of the students. The district responded timely by sending a list of evaluators and the district’s procedures for obtaining IEEs. The evaluators on the district’s list are all employed by other area school districts. The parent was not comfortable with the evaluators on the district’s list so throughout the summer of 2015, the 2015-16 school year, and the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, the parent attempted to find other evaluators who met the district’s licensure criteria. During the fall of 2016, the parent and the district had frequent communication regarding the IEEs, including shared communication with potential evaluators regarding fees and schedules. The district and the parent agreed on some potential evaluators for two of the students, but the parent learned one of the evaluators was not qualified to conduct the type of assessments necessary for the IEE. The parent then found a different evaluator and requested, in writing, for the district to switch the examiners. The district received this request on October 21, 2016. On October 24, 2016, the district wrote a letter to the parent denying the request. The letter cited its IEE procedures and indicated the district was not required to approve more than one examiner, nor was the district required to pay for an IEE unless the district had conducted a recent evaluation of its own.
On November 7, 2016, the district hand-delivered a letter to the parent denying the IEEs for all three students. Again, the district cited its procedures, indicating the district was not required to pay for IEEs if the district had not conducted recent evaluations. The district also cited its procedures indicating parents must request payment for the IEEs within one year of the date of the results of the school district evaluation.
The district inappropriately denied the parent’s IEE requests. The district’s procedures inappropriately limited parents to requesting IEEs based only on recent evaluations and requiring parents to request IEEs within one year of the date of the most recent evaluation. In addition, while the procedures correctly limit parents to requesting one IEE per school district evaluation, the evaluation may not be limited to one outside examiner when multiple components of the student’s disabilities need to be assessed.
The district conducted a reevaluation of one of the students in November 2016. The parent has also requested reevaluations of the other two students, which the district has initiated. The district has informed the department it has begun to review its policies and procedures regarding IEEs and revise them to ensure they do not contain conditions or timelines that limit parents’ access to IEEs. The district should submit these revised policies and procedures to the department for review by July 1, 2017.
All noncompliance identified above must be corrected as soon as possible, but in no case more than one year from the date of this decision. This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 5/5/17
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
>Division for Learning Support