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(2.27) If I do not agree with the school district’s evaluation, can I get the school district to pay for an independent evaluation?

(2.27) If I do not agree with the school district’s evaluation, can I get the school district to pay for an independent evaluation?

Yes. If you disagree with a school district’s assessment, you may ask the district to pay for an independent educational evaluation (IEE). [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56329(b).] You should make your request in writing to your child’s Program Specialist and send a copy to the district’s Special Education Director. It is important that you state your request as a disagreement with an assessment done by the school district.

When the school district receives your written request for an IEE, the school district has only two options:  Fund or File.  That is, the district must either pay for the independent evaluation (Fund) or file for due process (File), claiming that the district assessment is “appropriate.” If the district decides to go to a hearing, and the hearing officer determines that the school district’s assessment is appropriate, you have a right to the independent evaluation, but not at public expense. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.502; Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56329(b).] The district may ask you to identify specific areas of disagreement with its evaluation. You do not have to give the school district an explanation and any request for information by the school district cannot be used to delay the district’s response to your request for an IEE. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.502(b)(4).] The school district does have to give you information about where an IEE can be obtained and any basic agency criteria for an IEE. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.502(a)(2).]

Under federal regulations, the district must respond to your request for an IEE “without unnecessary delay.” [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.502(b)(2).]  If the district fails to respond by either paying for an IEE or filing for due process, it has failed to comply with the law. A three-month delay by a school district in providing an independent education evaluation at public expense, despite the district’s good faith efforts and ongoing negotiations with a proposed evaluator, violated the “without unnecessary delay” requirement of the federal law. [Student v. Dixon United Sch. Dist. (2014) 114 LRP 29153.]

In addition, a school district must assess a student in all areas related to that child’s suspected disability and the evaluations must be “sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the child’s special education and related services needs, whether or not “commonly linked” to the disability category of the child. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.304(c)(6); Cal Ed. Code Sec. 56320(f).]

If the school district conducted an initial evaluation or re-evaluation, but did not fully identify all areas that needed to be evaluated, the parent has a right to ask for an IEE at public expense if the parent disagrees with the evaluation. If the school district has conducted its evaluation and the parent asks for an IEE to assess an area of need not included in the district’s evaluation, the school district must file for due process or fund the IEE.  The school district does not have the option of doing their own evaluation first or in place of an IEE. [Letter to Carroll (2016) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) 68 IDELR 279.]

You could file a compliance complaint to ask the California Department of Education (CDE) to determine whether the school district should fund an IEE due to the unnecessary delay in responding to a parent’s request or the failure to assess in all areas related to your child’s disability. See Chapter 6, Information on Due Process/Compliance Procedures.