U.S. District Court Affirms Validity of IDEA Regulations Requiring IEEs at Public Expense

In Phillip and Angie C. v. Jefferson County Board of Education , 111 LRP 55718 (N.D. Ala. Aug 17, 2011), the U.S. District Court in Alabama overturned a magistrate judge’s opinion (56 IDELR 225) invalidating  the IDEA regulations allowing parents to obtain independent educational evaluations(IEE)  at public expense. Although at a very low-level in the federal judiciary hierarchy, the magistrate’s decision was concerning because it questioned the validity of IDEA regulations and policy that had been in effect since 1977. Moreover, sometimes school administrators and their attorneys use lower court decisions to support their actions, even if the decisions, like this one, are far out side the mainstream. Fortunately, the district court ruled that, even though the IDEA statute did not specifically state that parents can obtain an IEE at public expense, the U.S. Department of Education could require IEEs at public expense through regulations. In fact, regulations are intended to fill the gaps in the statute. Additionally, since the federal regulation requiring IEEs at public expense had been in place since 1977, school districts cannot claim they were unaware that accepting IDEA funds might require them to pay for IEEs.

In the case the district had argued that the parents were not entitled to an IEE at public expense, because they had not informed the district that the parents disagreed with the school district’s evaluation. The court, however, ruled that the mother’s refusal to sign the evaluation report, was sufficient to inform the district that the parents’ disagreed with the district’s evaluation. Moreover, the parents were not required to inform the district about the specifics of their disagreement with the district’s evaluation.The district then argued that the parents had obtained an independent evaluation without notifying the district. The court, however, ruled that parents are not required to notify the district before the parents obtain the IEE.

This is a good decision supporting the validity of the IEE process in federal regulations. I would, however, advise parents that if they disagree with the school district’s evaluation, they should be more clear in indicating their disagreement than just failing to sign the signature line on the evaluation form.  It would be prudent to notify the district in writing that the parents disagree with the school district’s evaluation. If possible, it would also be helpful to advise the district about specifics of the disagreement.

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4 Responses

  1. What if the school provided an IEE but will not
    implement recomended educational interventions. School makes minimal changes and indicates that the more substantial interventions are only recomended. Parents agree with school funded IEE. Should parents request a private sector IEE to further substantiate the suggestions of the school funded IEE? Would this be recomended or necessary in the event a due process hearing is requested ?

    Child is served under autism.One of suggestions in IEE involve ABA therapist working directly with child weekly.School will not agree. Parents have employed private ABA therapist in a home program. Because of child’s fatigue (mitochondrial disorder) morning sessions are more productive. Parents request to check in child (2 hrs late) one day a week to receive one ABA session during school hours. Additional hours are given after school at home.

    School special education coordinator and IEP team refuses to provide a partial day absence excuse. Parents would violate truncy laws without excuse. Any suggestions for parents? We feel our child’s rights are being violated. School policy requires an excuse for physician appointment. We have supplied IEP team with a medical letter from neurologist prescribing ABA and documenting autism/mitochondrial disorder.

    • Hi Dan and Karen and thank you for taking the time to comment on my post. I take it from the facts you’ve provided that in response to your request for an IEE, the school district provided a publicly funded IEE (the district paid for it) but the school district does not agree with all of the recommendations from the IEE. Unfortunately, whether the district pays for the IEE or the parents pay for the IEE, the district must consider the results of the IEE but dos not have to agree with or adopt the evalautors recommndations or conclusions. You’re correct that, as parents, you can pay for your own IEE and the district has to consider the information/recommendations from that IEE. But again, the district is not required to adopt those recommndations or conclusions. However, if you have two IEEs with similar recommndations, that might be persuasive evidence at a due process hearing.

      Without knowing a lot more information, it’s difficult for me to comment on the partial day absence issue. I do find it surprizing that the school is not open to providing that accommodation.

      • Could you provide any suggestions for an IEE consultation? We are willing to obtain an out of state evaluator ( we live in Alabama). Also, do you provide out of state fee-based consultations? We are interested in speaking to someone in detail about the partial day absence issues.
        Thank you for your reply.
        The Tidwell’s

  2. You might try contacting the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program at 1-205-348-4928 or adap@adap.ua.edu and their website is at http://www.adap.net/

    Their agency should provide services similar to mine or provide you with a referral. Good luck.

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