Don’t Let a Request for an Independent Educational Evaluation Trip You Up!

To start, what is an independent educational evaluation (IEE)? An IEE is an evaluation conducted by a qualified evaluator who is not employed by the school district responsible for the education of the child. A parent or legal guardian has the right to request an IEE at public expense when the parent disagrees with an already completed evaluation done by the school.  

If your school receives a request for an IEE, you have only 2 options: 1) file a due process complaint to defend the appropriateness of the school’s evaluation, or 2) fund the requested IEE. But before you make that decision, you do want to check to make sure you are dealing with a proper request.  

First, has the school completed an evaluation of the student? If the school has not completed an evaluation for the parent to disagree with, the parent’s request for an IEE is premature. If the school has started, but not completed, an evaluation, the request is also premature. And if the district offered to evaluate the student but the parent refused to consent, the IEE request is also improper. The parent must wait until the school has completed an evaluation of the student to request an IEE.  

Second, when was the school’s evaluation completed? While the IDEA does not have a deadline for a parent to request an IEE, most hearing officers and courts find that the request must be made within the statute of limitations. So for now, the evaluation with which the parent disagrees must have been completed no more than one year prior to the parent’s request for an IEE. But as of September 1, 2022, parents will have two years to make their request.  

Third, what type of IEE is being requested and does it correspond to an assessment area completed by the school? In most circumstances, a parent is not entitled to an IEE in an area that the school has not evaluated. However, a parent may be entitled to an IEE if the school’s evaluation is insufficient because it failed to assess in all areas of suspected disability. This can be a tricky line to draw, reach out to your attorney if you have questions about a specific situation.  

If you are dealing with a proper request, then the only question is whether to file for due process or fund the IEE. Multiple factors will contribute to your decision, including the strength and comprehensiveness of the school’s evaluation, the cost of hearing versus an IEE, the time involved in a hearing, and the potential for different conclusions and recommendations from an IEE. In most cases, it comes down to a financial decision, as it is cheaper to grant a request for an IEE than to go to hearing.  However, whatever your determination, be sure to provide the parent with prior written notice within a reasonable time, especially if you determine the request is improper and/or premature.  Finally, if you are going to grant the request, you will need to provide the parent with information about where an IEE can be obtained and the district’s criteria for IEEs . If you have questions about how to handle an IEE request, reach out to the authors of this post or any member of our Special Education Team.