What should I do if the school district says my child is not eligible for special education?

All too commonly school districts do not find children who have disabilities eligible for special education. In fact, approximately 15-20% of children attending school need special education services. Yet, districts generally only classify 2- 8% of their students, depending on the district.

In order to find out whether your child was eligible for special education, the district conducts an assessment and must convene an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) Team Meeting to memorialize their findings.

You must be give a copy of the psychoeducational and other assessments which report all of the scores received, the specific tests administered and the recommendations of the professional doing the assessment. At the IEP, the school district claims that as a result of its testing, your child does not meet the qualifications for special education in any area. What do you do now?

First, do not sign the IEP document finding the child ineligible. If you have already signed, send the school district a letter indicating that you are withdrawing your consent.

Next, find an independent professional to redo the assessment. Generally this will be a psychologist, but it could also be a speech pathologist or occupational therapist, if those are the issues for your child. Make sure that you find someone who is familiar with special education, has experience conducting assessments, but has no current ties with the school district. Ask the professional to evaluate your child and prepare an Independent Educational Evaluation (“IEE.”) Often the cost can be funded initially, at least in part, by insurance. If you fund the IEE, you are under no obligation to provide a copy to the school district, if you are dissatisfied with the results.

If you cannot afford to fund the evaluation and/or do not have private insurance, you can request that the district fund the Independent Educational Evaluation. You must indicate your areas of disagreement and/or the areas that you believe should have been evaluated, but were not. The school district must respond to your request by either agreeing to pay for the IEE or filing for a due process hearing to determine whether their evaluation was sufficient. If they agree to fund the IEE, they will forward a statement of the requirements for the professional who will be retained. They cannot, however, force you to select their recommended personnel.

If you have funded the assessment, you should furnish a copy of the report to the child’s school and to the Director of Special Education for the district after you have discussed it with the professional and agreed upon educational recommendations. If the results of the Independent Educational Evaluation disagree with those of the school district, the school district must reimburse you for all the costs of the assessment. They must also hold an IEP Team Meeting to consider the results in re-determining your child’s eligibility.

If the District funded the assessment, a copy of it will be sent to the school district by the professional. This is why the better choice, if you can afford it, is to retain the assessor yourself, have him/her perform the testing and explain it to you, evaluate the information gathered and presented and share it with the district only after you have discussed it and agreed upon recommendations.

Lastly, if the independent assessor agrees with the school district that your child doesn’t need special education, he/she can suggest ways of dealing with problems and you will be at ease knowing that you have done everything possible to investigate the issues.

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