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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What is an Independent Educational Evaluation – and Who Pays For It?

From the Moor Law Blog

By Michelle Moor, Esq.
April 19, 2013

One of the most important tools a parent can use when advocating for their child during the IEP process is an Independent Educational Evaluation.

An IEE is an evaluation that is conducted by a professional who is independent (i.e., someone not employed by the school district).

There are many reasons why parent may want to have their child independently evaluated, including when a parent:
  • disagrees with the results of the school district’s evaluations;
  • is concerned that the school district failed to do adequate or comprehensive testing; or
  • feels like something is “not quite right” in terms of their child’s educational program, and would like an independent clinician to assess their child’s progress.
Parents always have the right to privately pay for their child’s IEE, and can then bring the report to the Team for consideration. In Massachusetts, the Team must reconvene within 10 school days to consider any IEE reports.

There are also two unique circumstances in which the school district must publicly fund an IEE:

Circumstance 1: If the district has already evaluated a student, and a parent disagrees with the evaluation, the student may be entitled to a fully funded IEE if the student is: (a) eligible for a free or reduced cost lunch, or is in custody of a state agency with an appointed Educational Surrogate Parent; or (b) the family’s income is equal to or less than 400% of the federal poverty guidelines.

If a family’s income is between 400-600% of the federal poverty guidelines, then there is a sliding scale for partial public funding.

Circumstance 2: If a family’s income does not automatically qualify the student for a publicly funded IEE, or if the family does not wish to share information about their finances with the district, or if the district has failed to evaluate the student in a particular area of need, then a parent can request a fully funded IEE. Under these circumstances, the school district has 5 school days to respond to the request by either: (a) agreeing to fully fund the IEE, or (b) filing a due process complaint with BSEA requesting a finding that the evaluations that the district has conducted were “comprehensive and appropriate.”

A recent BSEA decision helps to illustrate the risk that a school district takes when it fails to follow the appropriate procedure after a parent requests an IEE.

In Newton Public Schools, BSEA # 13-0077, a hearing officer awarded a parent full reimbursement for their privately obtained IEE, in part, because Newton did not respond to the parent’s request for a publicly funded IEE within 5 school days, or provide the parent with information about how to obtain an IEE.

This decision can be accessed through LandLaw.com, by clicking the link for "current decisions" and then the link for the Massachusetts Special Education Reporter.

Parents should be aware that if a school district agrees to fund an IEE, the district is only required to fund an evaluation from an independent, qualified clinician who accepts the approved “state rate” for testing.

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NOTE: The Massachusetts State Rate, unadjusted for more than 16 years, is now so unrealistically low that few practitioners will, or indeed, evan can afford to accept it. In IEEs, as with most things, you tend to get what you pay for. Caveat emptor!

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Want to read more about IEEs? Here are some useful links:
  • To review the state regulations on IEEs, click here.
  • To review the federal regulations on IEEs, click here.
  • To read an advisory about IEEs from DESE, click here.
About Michelle Moor

Michelle Moor, Esq. is a graduate of Vassar College and Northeastern University School of Law. Before opening her practice, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa, worked as a litigation associate for a large international law firm, and practiced for several years in the disability and special education law group at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP in Boston.

Attorney Moor’s current practice is devoted entirely to working with families to ensure that students in Massachusetts receive the educational services to which they are entitled. She routinely consults with families about educational and civil rights matters, represents families during negotiations with school districts, as well as at disciplinary and manifestation hearings, hearings before the Bureau of Special Education Appeals, and in state and federal court.

Attorney Moor was named as a Rising Star among education attorneys in New England by Super Lawyers Magazine in 2010, 2011 and 2012. She proudly serves on the Human Rights Committee for The Price Center, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to serving and empowering individuals with developmental disabilities.

Attorney Moor also frequently presents on various education law topics to parent advocacy groups, non-profit entities, and other organizations.


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