What type of assessment can I request as an Independent Educational Evaluation?
If you’re concerned that an assessment completed by the School District was done poorly or doesn’t represent your child, you should definitely proceed with an IEE at public expense. There is one condition and that is that the school district must have already performed the type of assessment you are seeking because the IEE is, in essence, a second opinion assessment. It’s not just to discover additional information. You’re allowed to request any type of evaluation that a school district would perform to assess special education eligibility or the educational needs of your child in all areas of suspected disability. The types of assessment include any specialized evaluations such as occupational, physical, and speech therapy, assistive technology, audiology as well as psycho-educational and academic testing.
How much does an Independent Educational Evaluation Cost?
The cost varies by region. You can expect to pay from $500 to around $3500 or more depending on the area(s) being evaluated.
What happens next?
This area of the special education law is in the favor of parents. What happens next is that the school district has two choices. They can either:
File a due process complaint to request a hearing to show that its evaluation is
Ensure that an independent educational evaluation is provided at public expense, unless the agency demonstrates in a hearing pursuant to §§ 300.507 through 300.513 that the evaluation obtained by the parent did not meet agency criteria.
What this means is that the school district cannot ignore you and say “no”. However, in reality, school districts often push back and try to delay their response to parents. The simplest way they do this is by not returning calls in a timely manner and by making their list of providers difficult to access. I’m sure this has happened to many of you.
In case you haven’t done this already, start a 3 ring binder with tabs, get a hole punch, get ready to write letters, and get ready to make copies of letters that you will begin writing to the school district.
Print out monthly or annual calendars from your computer and keep track of timelines and dates. I like to have the school district’s calendar so I’m aware of their dates and schedule breaks.
Why? Because, at this point, the school district may push back with your request and may stall, and you will need to become savvy at creating the evidence of your requests, and your paper trail to prove your requests. And you need to become very good at what is called the “special education game” if you haven’t already done so.
There are two ways to get an IEE, either you pay for it yourself, or you ask the school district to pay for it at what is called “public expense”. When you ask for an IEE, you are asking for it based on the fact that you disagree with the school’s existing evaluation. You must be in disagreement with the school’s most recent evaluation, even if it is several years old, and your request must be your first request. The school district might try to tell you that it cannot be older than one year, but this is incorrect. The school district will not fund repeated IEEs for the same school assessment. Federal regulations state that parents are “entitled to only one independent educational evaluation at public expense each time the public agency conducts an evaluation with which the parent disagrees.” If you are unhappy with an IEE obtained at public expense, you will have to wait for the school district to reassess your child before you can request another IEE at public expense.
Write a letter to the Special Education Director of the school district where your child attends school and hand deliver the letter or mail it certified mail The letter should state that you are requesting an IEE at public expense because you disagree with the school district’s assessment. You do not have to give any reasons for your disagreement. The school district might ask you for your reasons and may use your refusal to explain your disagreement as an excuse for delaying their response to your request. Stand firm and state that you understand your right to not have to provide a reason in requesting the IEE. Keep a copy of the letter for yourself and send another copy to the school principal where your child attends school. On your copy write the date of when you hand-delivered the letter to the school district and what their response was if any. Or keep your post office receipt if you sent it certified mail. Having proof of your written request will be necessary for your reimbursement of the IEE later on, and will also be proof that you complied with the necessary timelines for any possible disputes later on down the road.
Wait for a Response
You should wait a reasonable time period after submitting your request to give the School District a chance to respond. The amount of time that School Districts have from the time of parental request to present an assessment plan when a District is conducting its own assessment in California is 15 days, so this seems like a reasonable amount of time to wait. There is no specified time frame in place in California state law at this time for an IEE to be completed at public expense. If a school district does not agree to provide an IEE then their other option is to file a due process hearing.
Moving forward with an IEE
Once the school district approves your request for an IEE you can work with the district to find out how to go about getting a provider to perform the IEE. The school district must provide you “information about where an independent educational evaluation may be obtained, and the agency criteria applicable for independent educational evaluations.” They should have a list of providers in your area, as well as pricing guidelines. If you already have a provider in mind, then it’s a good idea to get the provider approved if you want reimbursement for the evaluation. Remember that the provider must meet the guidelines set out by the school district. The provider is possibly going to go on site to the school, to observe your child and complete the assessment in the school setting. The school district must allow the IEE provider to assess the child at the school, and to observe them in the current placement as well as observe future program placements as applicable. If the district is trying to limit your choices to the extent that the evaluation would not truly be independent, it might be time to file a complaint.
What if the school doesn’t respond to my request? Now what?
Write another letter to inform the school district that because they have failed to respond to your request they are in violation of your rights under Section 300.502(b) of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations you will now proceed with an IEE at your own expense and request reimbursement. Alternately the school district can arrange for payment directly to the provider of your choice and let them know who that is.
File a compliance complaint with the State Department of Education
How to file a compliance complaint with the California Department of Education
This time write a letter to:-
California Department of Education
1430 “N” Street, Suite 2401
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901
You will need to include copies of your previous letters to the school district and allege that the school district has violated your procedural rights under 34 C.F.R. §300.502(b) and request that the CDE order the School District to provide you with an IEE immediately as a remedy to your complaint. Include any other documents you have to support your case. Remember that 3 ring binder I mentioned earlier? Well here’s why you need it so that everything you have been collecting is in there and can be found when you need it. The CDE usually responds to complaints within 60 days.
I have the money to pay for my own assessment and I already got it done because I was tired of waiting for the school district to respond.
The school district can refuse to reimburse you for the assessment unless you prove you notified them that you disagreed with their assessment and therefore requested an IEE. You should always give the district a chance to respond to your request before proceeding on your own. The law states that you have the right to obtain an IEE at your own expense and the School District must consider that assessment in developing your child’s IEP.
The School District agreed to provide the IEE at public expense but said I had to pay for it up front and I would be reimbursed later. I can’t afford the cost. What should I do?
There are no laws that state how the district must provide for the payment of the IEE, however, if payment causes unnecessary delays then this is how to get around this issue. You will need to request that the district pay the provider directly, due to financial barriers and if the District refuses to make reasonable arrangements then you should file a compliance complaint with the California Department of Education as described above.
References to Federal education code 34 C.F.R. § 300.502(a)-(e). can be found here:
Helen Painter MA, OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist, Consultant, and Advocate located in Riverside County California. Helen helps children with disabilities reach their highest potential in learning and life. She does this by assessing individual needs, developing a plan, and guiding parents to fully access available resources as an independent advocate. Helen has performed IEEs in the past.