Every so often the government takes a powerful stance on the side of the less powerful. January 21, 2011 was one of those moments. On that date the United States Department of Education released a memo to the State Directors of Special Education stating that schools cannot deny or delay a parent’s request for a psycho-educational evaluation of their child if the parent and the school believe that the child may be eligible for special education services. It is pretty unusual for the US Dept. of Ed to issue a memo like that, and it must be that my experience in Florida of parents being routinely denied evaluations in the name of something called “Response to Intervention” (RtI) is typical nationwide.
What this means: So, if you think or know that your child has a disability and is struggling in school, and your school official is telling you that they “don’t do evaluations anymore” or “we’re still observing him” or “we’re not ready for that yet” etc., do not accept “no” for an answer! Do This: Tell him or her that you are officially requesting an evaluation and that is your right, and if they want to deny your request they have to put it in writing. They have to give you a written notice explaining their refusal to conduct an initial evaluation. As a practical matter, in order to get them to issue that notice you’ll need what’s called a “student study team meeting.”
What Could Happen: They will either go ahead with the evaluation at which point you need to sign your consent to it in writing or they’ll give you a written notice of refusal. If you get a notice of refusal, you can pursue mediation or a hearing in administrative court. If they agree to the evaluation, they have 60 days to complete the evaluation after you sign your consent.