IDEA Complaint Decision 03-007

On February 7, 2003, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Wausau School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district responded properly to parent requests beginning November 2001 for independent educational evaluations (IEEs) of two children (Students I and E) following completion of the district's evaluations to determine eligibility for special education services.

On June 22, 2001, and August 22, 2001, IEP teams for Students I and E respectively, met and found that each of the two students did not have disabilities entitling them to receive special education services. The parents of the two students (I and E) submitted a written request to the district on November 29, 2001, for an IEE for each of their two children. In a letter dated January 23, 2002, the district confirmed that the parents met the district criteria for an IEE for one of the two students (Student I). A copy of the district IEE criteria was furnished to the parents with the letter. The district requested that the parents notify the district upon completion of the IEE so that arrangements could be made for the individualized education program (IEP) team to review and discuss the results. The district also indicated that requests for payment should be directed to the director of special education.

On February 13, 2002, the parents verified receipt of the January 23, 2002, letter from the director of special education and informed the district of their intentions to have both students evaluated. The parents also informed the district that they had directed the examiner to bill the district directly for evaluations of both students. The district did not provide a written response to the parents' letter.

The parents sent a letter on April 13, 2002, informing the district of the completion of the initial phase of the IEE for each child. The letter stated a bill outlining fees from the examiner would be forthcoming and requested a prompt response for reimbursement of both evaluations and the parents' expenses related to the evaluations. The district did not provide a written response to the parents' letter.

The parents sent a letter on May 19, 2002, noting receipt of information from the district for the examiner. The letter also proposed a June 17, 2002, date for IEP meetings for each of the students. In a letter dated June 3, 2002, the district responded to the parents that the district staff would not be available on June 17, 2002, for an IEP team meeting. The district expressed a desire to work with the parents in setting up a different date for the two IEPs to consider the results of the two IEEs after all the necessary reports had been received. A copy of the district release of information form was enclosed for the parents to sign and return so the district could communicate directly with the examiner. The form was never signed and returned to the district.

On August 8, 2002, the district wrote a letter to the parents stating that the final IEE reports from the examiner had not been received. The district acknowledged receipt of two emails dated July 21, 2002, and July 31, 2002, (on behalf of the parents) from the examiner requesting payment for the IEE completed on Student I. The district stated that in order for the district to consider payment for the IEE, the district must receive the final IEE report. District IEE policy states that the examiner must agree to release the assessment and results, including parent and teacher surveys, prior to receipt of payment for services. The district stated that receipt of the report prior to payment provides the district with the opportunity to consider the IEE and the reimbursement request in light of the requirements of federal law. The district asked that the examiner forward the final IEE report as soon as possible so that the district could consider the IEE reimbursement request and immediately schedule the necessary IEP team meetings to review the report. The examiner would not release the report to the district or the parent without payment. The district maintains that its IEE policy, which requires that results of an IEE be shared with the district prior to reimbursement for the IEE, was communicated to the parents. The district also maintains that it is not required to initiate a due process hearing prior to receiving the results of the IEE.

The parents requested an IEE for Students I and E on November 29, 2001. The district provided information to the parents regarding where an IEE might be obtained and a copy of the district IEE policy on January 23, 2002. Federal law requires that a district provide to parents upon request for an IEE, information about where an IEE may be obtained and the district's policy for IEEs. The district did not meet this requirement.

Federal law under its procedural safeguards ensures the parents' right to an evaluation at public expense if they disagree with an evaluation performed by the district. If a parent requests an IEE, a district must, without unnecessary delay, either initiate a hearing to show its evaluation is appropriate or ensure that an IEE is provided at public expense, unless the district demonstrates in a hearing that the evaluation obtained by the parent did not meet the district IEE criteria. There is no authority in current special education law that allows a district, as part of its IEE policy, to require a parent to share the results of the IEE prior to reimbursement or initiation of a hearing. As demonstrated in this case, such a policy deprives the parent of access to an IEE.

Within thirty days, the district either will pay the costs of the independent educational evaluations for both Student I and Student E or initiate a due process hearing to prove the district evaluations for Student I and/or E were appropriate. The district also must review its IEE policy and submit a revised policy within thirty days to the department for review and approval, along with a corrective action plan to ensure that upon request for an IEE, the district provides required information to parents.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed 4/1/03
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

Dec/tg
For questions about this information, contact Patricia Williams (608) 267-3720