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  1. School District Evaluations:

When contemplating whether a student is or remains eligible for special education and related services, school districts are required to assess students in all areas of suspected disability. School district are also required to use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional and developmental information. School districts are also required to consider information provided by the parent. School districts are also required to conduct evaluations by a multi-disciplinary team of professionals consisting of a minimum of two members of the child study team, and, where appropriate, other specialists. In evaluating each student, the District must ensure that its evaluation is sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the child’ special education and related services needs, whether or not commonly linked to the suspected eligibility category.

Initial evaluations are done to determine whether a student is eligible for special education and related services.

Every three years after a determination of eligibility, a school district is required to consider whether a reevaluation is warranted. School districts often ask parents to waive triennial reevaluations stating that they know the child remains eligible and therefore new evaluations are not needed. Barger & Gaines urges you to consider reevaluating your child often, as assessment of your child’s skills will permit you to assess whether he/she is progressing in the school district’s program. If progress is not being seen through reevaluations then changes to your child’s educational program must be contemplated and effectuated.

  1. Independent Evaluations:

If a parent disagrees with any assessment conducted by the district as part of an initial evaluation or a reevaluation, the parent may request an independent evaluation by an evaluator not employed by the district.

If a parent seeks an independent evaluation in an area not assessed as part of the district’s initial evaluation or reevaluation, the school district shall first have the opportunity to conduct the requested evaluation.

Independent evaluations shall be provided at no cost to the parent unless the school district initiates a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate and a final determination that effect is made following the hearing. If the district opts to prevent the independent evaluation at its expense, it must file for due process no later than 20 calendar days after receipt of the parental request for the independent evaluation.

Independent evaluations shall be obtained from another public school district, educational services commission, jointure commission, a clinic or agency approved by the State, or private practitioner, who is appropriately certified and/or licensed, where a license is required.

If a parent requests an independent evaluation, the school district may ask the parent to explain why he or she objects to the school district’s evaluation. However, the school district shall not require such an explanation and the school district shall not delay either providing the independent evaluation or initiating a due process hearing to defend the school district’s evaluation.

  1. Private Evaluations

Parents may opt to have private evaluations done of their children at their own expense. There are many reasons why parents would opt to privately evaluate their children including having the ability to freely choose the evaluator, not being able to request independent evaluations as there are no school district evaluations with which to object, parents want the evaluators to have complete independence from the school district (including financial independence in that they are not being paid by the district), etc.

School districts are required to consider the findings and recommendations obtained through private evaluations but they are not required to accept those findings or recommendations.

If you have concerns about the appropriateness of a school district’s program for your child, obtaining private evaluations is often highly informative and instructive about your child’s educational needs and the program he/she needs in order to appropriately meet those needs. While school districts are not required to accept the findings and recommendations of the private evaluations, the private evaluations are extremely helpful in supporting a dispute you may have with your district over appropriate programming and placement for your child.

School district are required to permit outside evaluators (whether independent or private) to observe students in their classrooms or other educational settings, as applicable. In-school observations are very important as they permit independent and private evaluators to see the program being provided to or proposed for the student by the school district.