The MLO Minute: One of the most important rights under federal special education law is to obtain, at public expense, an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) where the school district or charter school fails to adequately evaluate a child in all areas of disability. When a parent requests an IEE at public expense from a school district or charter school, the school has only two options: (1) agree to fund the requested IEE; or (2) request a due process hearing to “defend” the appropriateness of the schools most recent evaluation. In most cases that we handle on behalf of children with disabilities where we believe that the school’s evaluation was legally inadequate, the district or charter school typically agrees to our request for an IEE at public expense to be conducted by independent evaluators of our choosing. These evaluators could include a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist (speech/language, occupational, physical), and/or a behavior management specialist. The district or charter school cannot unreasonably limit the choices of these professionals by our clients.
In some cases, the district or charter school decides to “defend” their evaluation at a due process hearing – often where the district or charter school evaluation concludes that the child is ineligible for special education – and must convince a hearing officer that the initial evaluation is inadequate. In Rose Tree Media School District vs. M.J. , such a situation occurred, and the hearing officer agreed with our position that the school district’s evaluation was inappropriate in its assessment of M.J.’s eligibility for special education services, and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently affirmed that decision. The court, in affirming the hearing officer, specifically held that the district failed to sufficiently evaluate whether the student was eligible for services under the classifications of Other Health Impairment or Emotional Disturbance. An IEE at the district’s expense was therefore ordered.
, the Supervising Partner of the MLO Special Education Department
, skillfully litigated this case before the hearing officer who found in favor of our client. Michael Gehring
served as lead counsel in the school district’s federal court appeal, and successfully countered the school district’s position, all of which resulted in the successful decision for our client on this critical issue.