Independent Educational Evaluation
Parents have the right to request an Independent Educational Evaluation at public expense to determine their child’s special education needs.
Special education is governed by both federal and state Law. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law that ensures qualified children with disabilities receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). One purpose of the Act is “to ensure that educators and parents have the necessary tools to improve educational results for children with disabilities.” Tools such as accurate and appropriate evaluations, which are a driving force behind the promise of IDEA. Children receive public evaluations and reevaluations, which are used to determine eligibility and their needs. The IDEA expressly provides for both school evaluations, and for publicly funded independent evaluations.
Parents play a significant role in the IEP process, and the New Jersey State Regulations unequivocally confer upon parents the right to request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) of their child if they disagree with the evaluation obtained by the public agency. In Warren G. v. Cumberland County School District, 190 F.3d 80 (3rd Cir. 1999), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals recognized “the object of the parents’ obtaining their own evaluation is to determine whether grounds exist to challenge the District’s.” The IEE is a “second opinion” as it arises only when there are problems with the evaluation, or the school failed to fully evaluate “all areas of need.” In Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U.S. 49 (2005), the Supreme Court acknowledged that the Act “ensures parents access to an expert who can evaluate all the materials that the school must make available, and who can give an independent opinion. They are not left to challenge the government without a realistic opportunity to access the necessary evidence, or without an expert with the firepower to match the opposition.”
Parents may request an IEE if they disagree with the school district’s assessment; and their disagreement can be based on its validity, concerns with the appropriateness of the tests used, or that it fails to answer necessary questions. Parents may object to the often limited scope of school assessments or that the school failed to evaluate an area of concern entirely. In requesting an IEE, parents are not required to explain their objection to the school district’s evaluation, however, they may make only one request for an IEE per evaluation period; therefore it is important to request that the IEE include assessments that address all areas of concern.
The school district is responsible for the cost of the independent evaluation unless it can show, at an administrative hearing that it requests within twenty (20) days of receipt of the written parental request for an IEE, that the school district’s assessment was accurate, complete, and met the proper legal requirements. It is not uncommon for school districts to file a due process petition seeking to prevent parents from obtaining an IEE. If you have questions about this or any other NJ Special Education provision, please contact me today using the online contact form.