Dear ADDitude

Dear ADDitude: Can the School Reject Documentation from my Doctor?

“Can the school refuse to acknowledge or accept medical documentation from our psychiatrist? The principal told me that the psychiatrist will ‘say whatever Mom wants.'”

ADDitude Answers

It sounds to me like you’re trying to get extra help for your child who most likely is struggling in school. A statement from a
physician, including general practitioners, pediatricians or psychiatrists is often helpful in determining if your child needs extra supports at school.

Here’s what I would do. Talk with your child’s teacher and ask for an assessment to determine if he is eligible for extra services under IDEA or Section 504.

As part of the assessment, the school may interview you, ask you to fill out a rating scale, describe any extra supports you provide at home, explain your major concerns, and list the strategies that have helped in the past.

If by chance, the school tells you that your child isn’t eligible
for services, don’t give up. This happened to one mother I know, and after reading my summaries on IDEA and Section 504, plus attending an ADHD conference, she returned to school and repeated her question: “Why is he not eligible for a 504 Plan?” She knew the laws were on her side, so she called the superintendent who took action. The mother was right and the teacher, guidance counselor, special education teacher and vice principal were misinformed about Section 504. Her tenacity paid off; her son is currently being assessed for eligibility.

Posted by Chris A. Zeigler Dendy, M.S.
Former educator, school psychologist, and mental health professional with 40 years of experience

A Reader Answers

I believe if you do an IEE the school must accept it as it is essentially their report. I think a lot has to do if you use one of the people/groups they they provide you, so they may not be inclined to listen to an outside psychiatrist.

In the end, it really comes down to having an advocate, doctor, or someone with a higher “status” than the school reps to compete with them. I find the school will keep pulling the “they know best” unless you have someone that knows more than them and can speak to that.

Posted by motherhenn

A Reader Answers

Technically, the district does not need to accept an independent evaluation as they would their own; they only have to give it serious consideration.

In practice, a district would be crazy to completely disregard a truly independent outside opinion.

Your school’s principal is right though: there is a small percentage of less-than-ethical assessors that write whatever the person who hired them wants. The district still has to document that they considered the report and why they disagreed.

Again, this is rare. Everyone knows who they are, and their work is usually sub-par.

Posted by Dr. Eric

A Reader Answers

I have a child that has basically not been taught because he is impulsive, hard to keep focused, and all of the other things that go along with ADHD. After his last testing session the school decided he was “mentally retarded” and wanted to send him to a special class in which he would have no way to get grade level instruction. Since I disagreed with the testing, I asked for an IEE. I used the psychologist that the school requested and he proceeded to say that my son was not MR – but he was ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome and suffered from a non-verbal learning disability. After presenting the findings to the school they decided that they were just going to use their interpretation of the results and that he would be taken out of mainstream school. The only alternative we had was to pull him out of school and homeschool him. He is now in a public virtual school and although he struggles he is making passing grades.

Schools tend to do whatever they want. Remember they can do whatever they want unless they are called to task on it. Anything is legal unless you get caught. We are still fighting this battle. We believe that the school system has denied our child his civil rights by not providing FAPE and the least restrictive environment.

Posted by fomc99

A similar question was originally asked in an ADDitude Expert Webinar. Listen to the recording here.

1 Comments & Reviews

  1. fomc99: It’s most unfortunate that you ‘concluded’ that the “only alternative we had was to pull him out of school and homeschool him.”
    Unfortunately, interpretations and applications of the IDEA (and ADA) laws often depend upon the level of ‘sophistication’ (or lack of it) of the school administration interpreting them. The smaller the school district, the more likely is there to be a lack of knowledge, or, an attempt by them to ‘use’ their knowledge to deny services. This is often, sad to say, a fiscal issue, even with large districts, since many of the interventions and services cost the school district money to have to have additional staff to provide it, whether its a one-on-one ‘shadow’ or a special ed teacher, or a school psychologist, speech pathologist, etc., etc.

    Not knowing what type of school district you are dealing with, meaning a major city like New York, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, etc., or a small town (no offense!) ‘little red schoolhouse’ town where the school ‘district’ is one or two schools, it’s difficult to try to comment specifically to your situation. It is more the difficulty finding the type of help needed, in the different environments, than there being any difference in the help needed.
    When confronted with the resistance of the school as you described, it wasn’t clear at what “level” of the administration that occurred, whether it came from the teacher, the guidance counselor, the assistant principal, principal or superintendent of the school district, or board of education, etc.
    One next step that very often IS effective is, after you receive a statement in writing from the school denying the requested services, and, since many of those letters don’t include their specific reasons, also, if needed, submit a follow up request for the reasons upon which they based their conclusion. ALL of these requests should be in writing, and, if necessary, sent via USPS Certified Mail, so you have proof of delivery and a paper trail of your interactions.
    As someone wrote, in some cities, there are people who will act as advocates for parents in your situation. Some are not lawyers, but are very knowledgeable about the law, and, when the school sees them coming, they start to sing a different tune;—) Some of these do this at no charge, because they went through the same experience, learned the game, and now, often being retired, want to help, and have the time! If these are not available, there are lawyers who specialize in education law, and they can be asked to offer their opinion about the ‘strength’ of your case, etc. The lawyer should also be asked whether, if you pursue legal action and win, can your action against them also ask that they be held responsible for your legal expenses. If you’re in a small town, they might be in a nearby city. Often, where there is a law school in the city or even in the state, they have law clinics, and may be able to ‘take on’ your case.
    Oftentimes, once the school principal or district superintendent gets the letter of concern on a lawyer’s letterhead, about failure to provide proper assessment or the denial of recommended services from the psychologist’s or psychiatrist’s evaluation, they, then ‘somehow’ become willing to ‘review’ their determination. (Letters to the editor of the local newspaper can also draw attention to the school’s disregard for their obligation to provide mandated services.)
    It’s interesting that your school decided to make, and use, “their own” interpretation of the evaluation of your son. In some school districts, teachers can get fired for even ‘suggesting’ to a parent that their child seems to have “ADD” or “ADHD” (or any other medical or psychiatric diagnosis), because, they are told, they do not have the medical license allowing them to make such a diagnosis (which, of course, is true), and the district does not want to risk being held liable for that teacher’s actions! Where this has happened, some school districts have been held responsible for the costs of the child’s treatment, medication, etc., which is another reason they want to teachers to only ‘suggest’ that the child be ‘evaluated’ by their pediatrician or a child/adolescent psychiatrist. So, since schools don’t hire psychiatrists or pediatricians on staff, it would present them with an interesting situation where your school requires an outside medical professional to make a diagnosis they are not allowed to make, but then decide they know more than enough to “interpret” the conclusions of that professional so as to dismiss the professional’s expertise! They probably would not come out on top in that law suit!!

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