One of the most significant safeguards that parents of students with disabilities have under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the right to an independent educational evaluation (IEE). In essence, this allows parents to obtain a second opinion regarding a school district evaluation that they do not agree with or feel is inaccurate.
The parents’ right to an IEE is not unfettered. A school district can impose limitations on the cost and geographical distance of an IEE. Until now, the school district could also refuse an IEE request in a suspected area of disability, if the school district had not first evaluated the student in the same area of disability. This right was important, since it assured that school districts at least have the chance to evaluate a student in house before assenting to (and paying for) a private, outside evaluation.
This restriction, however, has been recently challenged by the U. S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). On February 23, 2015, OSEP issued a letter indicating that a parent’s request for an IEE is not limited to evaluations that are already performed by the school district. Rather, if a school district fails or neglects to evaluate a particular area of assessment while evaluating a student, the parent has the right to obtain an IEE in such neglected area. The parent is not required to ask the school district to perform the evaluation first, but rather can immediately seek a private evaluation.
This new OSEP opinion places even more emphasis upon school districts to comprehensively evaluate students in all suspected areas of disability. Based on OSEP’s opinion letter, the failure to evaluate a student in all areas may result in increased exposure to IEE requests from parents.