Over the past few weeks, we have been writing about the evaluation process and the IEP process that follows when a team decides that a student has a disability. Many times, the school team and parents agree about whether the child has a disability, and what needs the child has. When this happens, the team is able to is able to use the information from the assessment to come up with a plan to best meet the student’s needs through the creation of an IEP.
Unfortunately, not all evaluations go as smoothly, and you may disagree with the school’s findings. Eligibility determination meetings, where teams decide whether students qualify for special education services, can be stressful and emotional. This is especially true when all team members are not on the same page. We will be visiting some of the options you have so that you can make the best decision for you and your child during these meetings.
First, do not feel pressure to make a decision in the moment if you do not feel comfortable doing so. At the end of the ETR, parents are asked to sign and date the document and check the “agree” or “disagree” box. You may find that the team’s report reflects what you know to be true about your child. In this case, you may be comfortable agreeing with the evaluation at the time of the meeting. On the other hand, there may be times in which you know that you disagree with the findings of the report and will choose to disagree. When you disagree, you will be asked to write a statement to provide information about why you disagree with the findings. You do not have to do this on the spot; in fact, it is probably a better option to write a letter to the school district once you go home and are able to review the information and organize your thoughts. Other times, you may not be sure about whether you completely agree or disagree with the findings. In this case, we recommend that you sign and date the evaluation to indicate that you were in attendance and to note that you will be reviewing the report before making a final decision. If you are feeling conflicted, you do not need to make any decisions in the moment, even if you feel pressure to do so. It is reasonable to be able to take more time to look over the information that has been provided in the evaluation to make an informed decision. While you do not want to take too long to decide, a day or two can make you feel more comfortable in knowing that you are making the best choice for your child.
If you disagree with the ETR, you have the right to an Individual Educational Evaluation (IEE). IEEs are evaluations conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the school district responsible for the education of your child. They must be funded by the school district if you disagree with the results of their evaluation. Often, a school district may be able to provide you with a list of practitioners who conduct psychoeducational evaluations. You have the right to choose your own evaluator, so feel free to do your own research and decide who you would like to evaluate your child, even if they are not on the list provided by your district. After the IEE, the team will reconvene to decide if the new information changes your child’s special education eligibility. The IEEs should provided additional information that will make it clearer whether or not your child qualifies for special education services. Many disagreements can be rectified through the IEE. However, if there is continued conflict between you and your team, or you do not feel they appropriately take the information from the IEE into account, you may wish to seek legal counsel to guide you in Due Process.