On October 20, 2004, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Tomah Area School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether district policy improperly limits the cost or location of an evaluation when parents request an independent educational evaluation (IEE) at public expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the district.
The district's policy states that "if the total cost of the IEE exceeds the district's costs criteria and if, in the school district's sole judgment, there is no justification for the excess cost, the cost of the IEE will be funded up to the district's maximum allowable cost." The policy further states that the district is not responsible for "reimbursement of travel costs or other related costs of the parent pertaining to the arrangements for or provision of the IEE." In a letter dated September 10, 2001, the United States Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), in reviewing similar policy language, clarified that such provisions are inconsistent with federal special education law pertaining to IEEs.
Federal law requires if the total cost of an IEE exceeds the district's maximum allowable cost, the district in its sole judgment cannot refuse to pay for the additional costs. Rather, the process specified under federal law requires that if a district objects to the cost, the district must without unnecessary delay initiate a due process hearing to demonstrate that the evaluation obtained by the parent did not meet appropriate agency criteria.
In the September 2001 letter, OSEP further clarified that districts may be required to reimburse parents for travel costs or other related costs if it is necessary for a child to be evaluated at a location out of district. If a district believes that the expenses are unreasonable, the district must request a due process hearing on this issue. District policy cannot strictly prohibit such costs.
Finally, the complainant objects to policy language regarding location of the IEE. The policy specifies that "written response from the district will indicate that the location of the evaluation will be in the district unless the requested IEE cannot reasonably be conducted in the district." This policy language, by itself, is not inconsistent with federal law. However, the district could not deny a request for an IEE or limit reimbursement based on location without first going through a due process hearing. In this case, it is not alleged that the policy was impermissibly applied.
Within 60 days the district must revise its policy to meet the requirements as discussed above, and submit a copy of the revised policy to the department. This concludes our review of this complaint.
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy