A parent of a student with a disability is entitled to request an independent educational evaluation or IEE each time the school conducts an evaluation. The purpose of a school evaluation is two-fold: Evaluations are used to determine
(1) eligibility or continued eligibility for special education and
(2) the educational needs of the student.
The IEE serves the same purpose and is a good way to get a second opinion.
If your child is already receiving special education, the school is required by the IDEA to evaluate the student at least every three years. This is called a re-evaluation.
A re-evaluation can be completed with new testing and assessments. Alternatively, the school could determine that it has enough information to continue your child’s eligibility and educational needs. This is an evaluation based on existing data. In Arizona, evaluations are included on a multidisciplinary evaluation team, or MET, report.
Whether the school relies on existing data or conducts new testing that is considered the school’s evaluation. So a parent can request an IEE after the initial evaluation or a re-evaluation even if the school did not conduct any new testing.
What is an IEE? An IEE is an evaluation conducted by a professional who is not employed by the school that conducted the evaluation. The school pays for the evaluation. The person conducting the IEE must have at least the same qualifications as the person who conducted the school evaluation or evaluations. The IEE must also meet the school’s requirements.
An IEE is a great way to get more information about your child’s needs and make sure the school is doing what it can to meet those needs.
How to request an IEE? In order to request an IEE, a parent needs to notify the school they disagree with the school’s evaluation. This should be done in writing such as an email.
In response to this request, the school either has to agree to fund the IEE or file a due process complaint defending its evaluation. It cannot simply refuse to agree to an IEE. As filing a due process complaint is more expensive than funding the IEE, the school will most likely agree to fund the IEE.
With its approval of the IEE, the school will almost certainly provide you a list of approved providers for IEE if it agrees to pay for the IEE. The parent may but is not required to use any of the providers from that list. The parent gets to choose who conducts the IEE as long as the minimum requirements are met.
The school is entitled to ask that parent why they disagree with the evaluation. But the school is not allowed to require that a parent respond to that question. So, the school can ask but you do not have to tell them why you disagree. But it is a good idea to know why you are asking for the IEE as the school may seek to file a due process complaint if they think there is no specific reason you are asking for the IEE.
Scope of the IEE: Most evaluations by the school will include assessments in the following areas:
This is typically what is meant by a psychoeducational evaluation. But depending on the student’s needs, the evaluation may be done in other areas including, speech-language, occupational therapy, functional behavioral assessment, or autism specific assessments.
For example, if a school conducted an initial or re-evaluation by only doing a psychoeducational evaluation, a parent may still be able to request and obtain an IEE. This is often dependent on whether the school was aware (or should have been aware) of concerns in those areas before the evaluation or re-evaluation.
So a disagreement about the school’s evaluation can include a disagreement about the scope of the evaluation as well as the testing that was conducted. This is true even if the school determined it did not need to do any new testing.
The school is not permitted to fix flaws in its evaluation in response to a parent’s request for an IEE.
So, after a MET report, a parent may obtain an IEE in a number of areas. The IEEs may be conducted by several professionals, depending on the student’s needs.
When can or should you request an IEE?
The school is required to re-evaluate a student at least every three years. But a school can re-evaluate more often than that depending on the student’s needs.
The school is not required to re-evaluate a student if it evaluated less than one calendar year before. (Schools and parent can agree to conduct an evaluation within a year but it is rare.)
So, if it has been less than a year since your child’s last evaluation by the school, then an IEE will likely be your only option to get additional testing without paying for it yourself. Please keep in mind that a parent is always entitled to get additional private evaluations of your child and share that information with the school. But the only option where the school pays for the private evaluation is the IEE.
It is a good idea to request any IEEs from the school within two years of the school’s evaluation. Any request outside of that timeframe and the school may choose to refuse the IEE.
This is based on two reasons. The IDEA contains a two year statute of limitations that requires a parent to bring a due process complaint against the school within two years of the date the parent knows or should know that the school violated the student’s rights. So, the reasoning of cases is that a parent needs to request an IEE within two years because if there is a claim that the school’s evaluation was deficient in some way, a claim brought more than 2 years from the evaluation could be dismissed as untimely.
Also if more than 2 years have gone by, your child’s needs might have changed since the last evaluation by the school and it may make sense to let them re-evaluate rather than get an IEE.
So, if it has been longer than 2 years since the last school evaluation, the best option is to request that the school re-evaluate your child sooner than the scheduled 3-year re-evaluation. Check out my previous blog post about requesting an evaluation. Then after the school completes the re-evaluation, you are once again entitled to request an IEE if you disagree with that evaluation.
What does the school have to do after the IEE is completed? After the IEE is conducted, the school is required to “consider” the results of the IEE. Generally, a school will hold another MET meeting to review the report and decide as a team (with the parent included) if any changes are needed for the student’s IEP.
But the school is not required to agree with the IEE report or conclusions. It is a good idea to have the independent evaluator participate in the MET meeting to discuss the evaluation with the team. This is something that should be discussed with the evaluator you select so it is included in the amount the evaluator charges the school. If a school approves a certain price for the IEE, it is unlikely to pay an additional fee for the MET meeting. But having the evaluator at the meeting can hopefully help persuade some of the team members to make changes to the IEP.
If you are thinking of requesting an IEE or are concerned with the school’s evaluation, you should consult a special education attorney to make sure your child’s rights are protected.