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.