REQUESTING AN IEE FROM YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT:
IS IT BETTER TO ASK FOR PERMISSION OR FORGIVENESS?
by Michael Connolly, Esq., Supervising Partner of Special Education
McAndrews, Mehalick, Connolly, Hulse, Ryan and Marone P.C.
There are many circumstances in which parents may want to obtain an independent educational evaluation (“IEE”) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”); most commonly when they disagree with an evaluation by their child’s public school district. Parents also have the right to request that the IEE be publicly funded. However, it is necessary to keep in mind that there are certain procedures under the IDEA that are triggered when parents request funding for an IEE from their school district.
Specifically, once a request for an IEE at public expense is made the law provides a school district with only two options: (1) it can agree to fund the IEE; or (2) it can request a due process hearing to defend the appropriateness of its last evaluation. While a school district may request from the parents the basis for their disagreement with its evaluation, it cannot delay either agreeing to fund the IEE or requesting a due process hearing. The law does not, however, require that parents necessarily request funding for an IEE prior to actually obtaining the evaluation. In other words, parents may obtain an IEE of their child at their own expense, and then present the completed IEE to the school district and request reimbursement, thereby triggering the requirement that the school district either fund the IEE (i.e., reimburse the costs for the already obtained IEE) or request a hearing to defend the appropriateness of its last evaluation.
While in certain circumstances, it is possible to establish the inappropriateness of the school district’s evaluation on its face, or in light of the child’s needs, difficulties in school, or programming to date; often having the completed IEE, and possibly the testimony of the evaluator who did the IEE, goes a long way in establishing the right to the IEE at public expense. In light of the procedures triggered by a request for an IEE at public expense, parents need to be prepared to move forward with a due process hearing challenging the appropriateness of the school district’s last evaluation at the time they make the request of their school district to fund the evaluation, and having the IEE in hand at the time may be critical to securing funding if the school district denies your request. So before asking for an IEE from a school district, parents may want to consider whether they would be better off seeking forgiveness rather than permission from their school district.