School District Evaluations: Basic Information

Submitted by Tim on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 02:50 PM

In theory, every child with special needs must be evaluated by an expert so that the school district will know the precise extent of the child’s needs and receive some guidance from the expert in effective strategies to educate the child. Like any medical intervention on your child, you generally must authorize the evaluation or it does not happen. In practice, the evaluation process can be very aggravating for parents. Here is some basic background on the legal issues in trying to get out of the evaluation process under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:

The school district is obligated to evaluate a child to determine eligibility for special needs. Unless the school district has different timing rules, the evaluation must generally occur within 60 days of the request.(1)  The district must seek your consent for this evaluation.(2) You are legally authorized to withhold or condition your consent, perhaps because you think that the proposed evaluation is not targeted at your child’s problems. But the school district is not obligated to accept your conditions. If the school district treats your response to its request for consent as a refusal to consent, the district might seek an administrative determination that it may evaluate without your consent – essentially take you to court before an administrative law judge for the judge to decide if your refusal was appropriate.(3)

Re-evaluations can occur whenever the situation warrants, including when you request a re-evaluation.(4) But this requested evaluation is different than your right to an independent evaluation at public expense. In terms of timing, the evaluations cannot occur more frequently than once a year, nor less frequently than once every three years, unless you and the school district agree otherwise.(5)

Thus, every third year, the IEP meeting will be particularly long, as the school district creates a record that it complied with the re-evaluation requirements. As I noted, you and the district can agree that the re-evaluation process can be skipped, but that means you are relying on the conclusions and guidance that is three years out of date. But if you withhold consent, some cases suggest that the school district would have the same options it had in dealing with withheld consent on an initial evaluation.



(1) 20 U.S.C. § 1414(a)(1)(C)

(2) § 1414(a)(1)(D)(i)

(3) § 1414(a)(1)(D)(ii)(I)

(4) § 1414(a)(2)(A)

(5) § 1414(a)(2)(B)

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