On October 2, 2001, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Appleton Area School District. The issue is whether the district, during the 2000-2001 school year, improperly reduced the payment to a parent for an independent education evaluation of her child submitted to the district in August 2001. This is the departments decision for that complaint.
On June 29, 2001, an IEP team meeting was held to determine initial eligibility for special education services. The IEP team found that the child had a specific learning disability. On July 16, an IEP team met to consider additional information from a private speech and language evaluation completed in April 2001, and subsequently determined the child also had a disability in the area of speech and language. In addition, the team identified mathematics as an area of deficit.
At the July 16 IEP team meeting, the parent stated her intent to seek an independent educational evaluation (IEE) in the area of mathematics. The complainant maintains district staff told her she was entitled to obtain an IEE. District staff indicate the parent was told the evaluation was not complete yet, but the complainant maintains there was no discussion of whether or not the evaluation was complete. On July 23, the special education coordinator met with the parent and provided her with a copy of the districts IEE policy and accompanying documents. After July 23, but prior to another IEP meeting on August 13, the district received a mathematics evaluation report from an independent evaluator. The IEE report indicates the child was assessed on July 17. On August 13, the IEP team addressed the remaining areas of the childs IEP including special education services for mathematics. On August 17, the IEP team met to finalize the IEP. An initial notice of placement offer was sent to the parent on August 24. On August 22, the parent submitted a bill totaling $397.50 to the district for the IEE obtained on July 17, including two sessions of cognitive testing. On September 13 and October 19, the district reimbursed the parent a total of $297.50 for 3.75 hours of cognitive testing.
The parents of a child with a disability are entitled to an IEE at no cost to them when they disagree with the agencys evaluation of their child. However, the districts evaluation of whether the child has a disability, and the nature and extent of the special education and related services needs must be completed prior to a parent obtaining an IEE at public expense. The evaluation is complete when the childs parent is provided notice of evaluation findings. In this case, the parent obtained an IEE prior to the district completing its evaluation in August 2001. The law does not require a local educational agency to reimburse parents for the cost of an evaluation that the parents obtained before the agency completed its evaluation, even if the agency subsequently adopts the results of the evaluation obtained by the parent. In a spirit of cooperation, the district will not be seeking a refund for the evaluation costs it has paid.
The parent also requested payment for the services of two consultants who attended two IEP team meetings. Parents may be accompanied to IEP team meetings by individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding a child, but special education law does not require the district to reimburse a parent for their participation in the meeting.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy