On October 15, 2018, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received two complaints under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (complainant) against the XXXXX (district). This is the department’s decision regarding those complaints. The issues are whether the district properly responded to a parent’s request on December 6, 2017, for pupil records for a student with a disability; and properly responded to a parent’s request on February 19, 2018, for an independent educational evaluation (IEE).
School districts must permit parents and/or adult students to inspect and review any education records that are collected, maintained, or used by the district. A school district must comply with a request for access to education records without unnecessary delay and before any IEP team meeting. In all cases, the school district must comply with a parent’s and student’s request within 45 days. [34 CFR §§§ 99.10, 300.613, and 300.611 (b); Wis. Stats. § 118.125 (2) (a)]
The parent submitted a written request for the student’s records on December 6, 2017. The district indicated that during the district’s winter break, from December 23, 2017, to January 1, 2018, the availability of staff to gather records was limited. On January 2, 2018, district staff needed additional help from district information technology staff to acquire records that were part of the parent’s request. The district indicated the records were provided to the parent in several batches beginning on January 20, 2018. The last batch of the records was successfully provided to the parent on January 22, 2018, which was two days after the 45-day deadline. The district did not properly respond to the parent’s request for pupil records. As the district has provided the requested records to the parent, no corrective action is required.
An IEE is an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not an employee of the student's school district. A parent has the right to an IEE at public expense if the parent disagrees with the district's special education evaluation. Upon receiving a request for an IEE, a school district must inform parents about where to obtain an IEE. The agency must also inform the parents of the district's IEE criteria. The district must respond to the request for an IEE in a reasonable amount of time by either providing the IEE at public expense or requesting a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate. School districts may establish maximum allowable costs for IEEs. However, school districts must permit parents the opportunity to demonstrate that unique circumstances justify an IEE that exceeds the maximum allowable cost. If unique circumstances exist, the agency must ensure that the IEE is publicly funded at the higher amount. [34 CFR § 300.502; DPI Information Update Bulletin 99.02]
On February 19, 2018, the district received a request for an IEE from the parent. On March 7, 2018, the parent sent an e-mail to the district identifying a specific evaluator to conduct the IEE with a cost of $1,900. The district sent the parent an e-mail on March 14, 2018, informing the parent of the board policy establishing a maximum IEE cost of $1,000. District staff offered to send the parent a list of additional qualified evaluators to consider.
On March 15, 2018, the district received a signed consent form from the parent to enable the district to disclose information to the evaluator. On March 16, 2018, district staff e-mailed the parent saying the signed release form would be faxed to the evaluator. On March 28, 2018, district staff e-mailed the parent confirming a conversation the staff had with the evaluator noting the evaluator had agreed to complete the IEE.
After a month had passed, district staff e-mailed the parent on April 25, 2018, to inquire about the IEE and to offer to assist in the effort. On June 6, 2018, the parent e-mailed district staff to tell them the original evaluator was no longer able to conduct the IEE. In this e-mail, the parent noted the parent had been conducting some research and was unable to find any outside evaluator without a six-month waiting list to complete the IEE for $1,000. District staff responded by e-mail on June 7, 2018, and provided the parent a list of additional qualified evaluators in the area. On June 8, 2018, the district staff left a telephone message for the parent and followed up with an e-mail asking to discuss the parent’s concerns. The parent did not reply.
On August 8, 2018, district staff again reached out to the parent by e-mail asking for clarification about her efforts to select another evaluator. The parent e-mailed district staff on August 14, 2018, stating that the parent had selected another outside evaluator. The new evaluator completed the evaluation and submitted a copy of the IEE to the district on October 18, 2018. The district received the invoice from the evaluator for $990 and sent payment that day. Under the specific circumstances of this case, the district properly responded to the parent’s request for an IEE.