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Schools Must Pay For Special Education Evaluations, Court Rules

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School districts should reimburse parents for independent educational evaluations of students with disabilities, at least in some cases, a federal court is affirming.

Though the U.S. Department of Education has long indicated that parents have the right to an independent opinion at public expense under certain circumstance, the Jefferson County Board of Education in Alabama challenged the rule. The school district declined to reimburse parents named in court papers as Philip and Angie C. after they sought an outside evaluation when they disagreed with the district’s assessment of their child, A.C.

The Jefferson County Schools argued that paying for parent-solicited evaluations goes beyond the scope of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act because the long-standing federal law does not specifically mandate it.

But last week a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found “no merit” to the school district’s argument.

“The regulation at issue here is valid so long as public financing of a parent’s IEE is consistent with the intent of Congress in enacting the IDEA,” the judges wrote in their opinion.

The court ruling notes that federal lawmakers have reauthorized the IDEA numerous times without taking away the right to a taxpayer-financed independent evaluation, which the Education Department implemented in the early days of the IDEA.

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Comments (6 Responses)

  1. KA101 says:

    Ahem. Provided that the caregiver disagreed with the school’s evaluation and obtained the private evaluation using the same criteria*, the school *must* reimburse the parent. It’s not a “should” sort of thing.

    *For example, the same basic professional qualifications (better evaluator is OK; worse is not), same type of environment (clinical, classroom observation, etc), and so on.

    School districts trying to undermine student rights are nothing new, unfortunately.

  2. jakki says:

    What a great victory for this family and hopefully this will set precedent for the future. My daughter is 25 now and I never could get the school to evaluate her for a specific disabitlity thereby not qualifying her for DD services. NOW, when she’s nearly 25 years old FINALLY had her evaluated and the State paid. This should have happened when she was in high school and those years would not have been so horrible. Parents must continue to advocate even at the risk of looking/sounding like overprotective/too involved and the various other labels we are sometimes given

  3. Liz says:

    I paide $4,000 for an independent evaluation rather than have a district evaluation. The observation was very enlightening. The teacher did not teach reading that day, but instead had the students write independently for the entire period. this was because the reading program used by the district was inappropriate and not evidence-based. It was only throught the IE that I was able to learn the actual reading level of my son – 5 years below grade level. District evaluations are one-sided. Even with an IE and an advocate, the is still no accountability within the system and districts can do pretty much whatever they choose to do. It you decide to file a complaint, they simply must correct to be back in compliance, as there are no consequences.

  4. Leticia Velasquez says:

    This is great news as I am fighting with my school district in Connecticut about an independent evaluation.

  5. Lisa says:

    I paid $3000.00 last year to have my children evaluated outside of the school system! is it too late to be reimbursed?

  6. Ellen Chambers says:

    Also, a parent’s right to request a publicly funded independent education evaluation (and a school’s right to challenge such a request at an administrative hearing) is something even a novice special education advocate is aware of. It’s appalling that the district spent taxpayer money trying to challenge what is basically already clearly laid out in the regulations. Something really wrong there. I’m also confused as to why the school district’s attorney allowed the case to go forward since it was, obviously, doomed from the start,

    Ellen M. Chambers, MBA
    Disability Advocate
    Massachusetts

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