IEP Step 6: If You Disagree with the School’s Assessment

I applied for services for my child, then received a letter stating that the school found that his disabilities didn’t warrant giving him services. I think he does need them. What now?

Fight School Assessments the Right Way
Fight School Assessments the Right Way

When a school finds a child ineligible for services, they send a letter to the parents notifying them of their findings. They do not hold a meeting. This decision can take 60 days.

It is hard for parents to receive such a letter after putting in the effort to apply for services. From the time you first realized your child was struggling in school until the moment the school notifies you that your child is ineligible for extra help, you have been on a roller-coaster ride. Your emotions are in high gear. You are worried and scared. You feel alone. You know that accommodations were the answer. With extra help, you know your child would be fine.

Now, all of your hopes have been crushed. No one is going to help. No one is going to do anything. You are angry, upset, and desperate. You want to hold someone accountable, to yell and scream. You want to tell everyone in the room exactly what you think of the decision – and them.

Don’t. It’s important to keep your cool and stay rational. Yelling and screaming isn’t in the best interest of your child. Find solutions to the problems your child is having at school. You need the people in that room on your side. Take a deep breath.

While your child might not be eligible for services and accommodations under IDEA or Section 504, the school may have some resources or informal accommodations available. Talk about your specific concerns and ask what the school may be able to do. Some schools provide free or low-cost tutoring before or after school. Other schools offer programs in which an older student works one-on-one with your child.

Teachers may be willing to provide extra assistance, use signals to keep your child on track, or check to make sure homework assignments are written down properly. Teachers often will e-mail parents without special accommodations, daily or weekly. Talk with your child’s teachers, and find out if they are willing to help even without a formal document.

Ask for a copy of the assessment, and all information, showing that your child is not eligible for services. Your school should be able to provide you with a detailed explanation and documentation to back up their decision. If there is no documentation, request a letter explaining the decision.

My school doesn’t have a lot of “informal accommodations” to offer. Can I take other steps to get the school to reconsider their decision?

You have the right to make a formal request to the school district for an independent educational evaluation (IEE). An IEE may show that the student has disabilities that were not picked up during the school evaluation. The quality of school district evaluations varies and not all districts do a good job of assessing your child’s strengths and weaknesses.

The IEE is completed by a qualified professional outside the school system. Once you make this request (in writing), and send it to the head of the 504 team or the IEP case manager who signed the letter denying your child services, the school can accept the request and pay for the IEE. If the school doesn’t believe an independent evaluation is necessary, it may file for a due process hearing. When the school requests a due process hearing, you must receive notice of their request. The notice must include:

  • The name and address of the student
  • The name of the school
  • A description of why the request is being made
  • A proposed resolution

The notice must be filed with the state or local education agency.

Once all the proper paperwork is filed, both the parents and school district attend a mandatory resolution session. The formal resolution session may be waived if parents and the school agree on services at an informal mediation session held at the school or district office, to be scheduled within 15 days of filing the due process request. At this session, the school may agree to classify a student under IDEA or 504 services. If both parties accept the resolution, an agreement is drafted, and both parties agree to abide by that agreement.

If no agreement is reached during a resolution or mediation session, a due process hearing is scheduled with an independent hearing officer or a panel of impartial hearing officers. Either party may appeal the decision of the due process hearing.

There are timelines in place for due process hearings. The hearing officer must make a decision within 45 days of the original request for a hearing. If an appeal is filed, it must be done within 90 days. A decision on the appeal must be made within 30 days of the request for a review of the decision.

You can also choose to have an IEE completed privately, at your own expense. You may bring the results of the IEE to the school and request that these be reviewed and a new decision made. The IDEA requires that your IEE be considered by the IEP team, but does not require that it be determinative.

Click here for Step 7: Prepare for Your IEP/504 Meeting.

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