Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a school district that identifies a child who potentially has a disability and needs special education first must evaluate the child.
The point of the evaluation is to determine if, for purposes of federal law, the child has a disability and that disability qualifies the child for special education.
The school must perform this evaluation whether the parents requested their child receive special services through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or the school identified the child as needing special services. Parents must agree to the evaluation.
The evaluation has to meet several criteria.
To give an overview, the evaluation has to address the needs of the individual child. At a minimum, this means some battery of individual tests and observation by qualified experts.
The evaluation should look at a variety of areas in the child’s life both in school and otherwise. It should also consider existing information, including prior professional tests and the observations of those closest to the child.
When administering this evaluation, the school must be on the lookout for implicit bias or discrimination in its methods.
Long Island parents have the right to an Independent Educational Evaluation
Despite these legal safeguards, many times, the evaluations of Long Island school districts are incorrect or incomplete. They may wrongly conclude that a child is not entitled to special education or that the child requires far less support than what they truly need.
In the worst-case scenario, these evaluations are self-serving. Special education is both time-consuming and expensive, and too many schools try to avoid providing it. In other situations, even if a school district tried to follow the rules, their conclusions are simply wrong.
Parents have the right to have someone not affiliated with the school evaluate their child through what is called an Independent Educational Evaluation, or IEE.
This may be an important step if the parents disagree with their school’s evaluation of their special needs child.
The problem is that IEEs can be cost-prohibitive. In many situations, New York parents may be able to get an IEE performed at the public expense. However, they will have to establish that they legally qualify for this benefit.