Don't Let your school deny your child an evaluation?

Why Get an Evaluation

Getting an evaluation is the first step in getting an IEP (an Individual Education Plan).   You can not get an IEP without an evaluation.  While you don’t need an evaluation to get a 504 Plan, you do need one to be eligible for an IEP.  When I say an evaluation, I mean a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation administered by a psychologist.  This type of evaluation has to be “full and individualized” and has to rely on a variety of assessments.  If it’s done well, it will give you a host of good information about your child and why they’re having trouble in school.  A parent can get an evaluation by a public school psychologist at no  cost or by a private psychologist which is sometimes very costly. Obviously, it would be better to get it for free from a school psychologist.  Here’s how.

How to Get an Evaluation

A parent is entitled by federal law (the IDEA) to get a comprehensive evaluation in all areas of suspected disability.  That means if your child is doing poorly in any subject or socially, emotionally or behaviorally, you can ask the school district for an evaluation.  Parents often have a hunch if there’s something wrong with their child.  The teacher can also ask for one, if she thinks your child may be disabled, but I recommend doing it yourself.  Ask the director of special education for your district or region for a comprehensive educational evaluation, and do it in writing.  It’s very important to do it in writing (and keep a copy of it) because your request triggers the school district to do things within a certain amount of time.  You can either email your request to the director of special ed or hand-deliver it.

After you write your request for a comprehensive psycho-ed evaluation,  in California the district has 15 days to present you with an assessment plan.  After you sign your consent to it,  the school psychologist has 60 days to finish it and schedule a meeting to discuss whether your child is eligible for an IEP.  Say something like:

“I am formally requesting that you comprehensively evaluate my child,  _____ [name], who is in the _____ grade at ______ [name of school].  Their School ID is ______.  I know that as of the date of this letter/email you have 15 days to present me with an evaluation plan and 60 days to finish evaluating them and to schedule a meeting.  Thank you.”

How to Overcome Potential Roadblocks

  1. If your school official tells 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! Those responses violate the law.  Don’t be afraid to cite it – “Section 300.301 of the federal regulations of the IDEA.”.  By the way, that right does not go away during distance learning.  
  2. The same goes whether or not the school or your teacher or anyone else does not think your child is disabled.  As a parent, you have a right to the evaluation regardless of what anyone at the school says.
  3.  The school delays giving you an assessment plan or finishing the evaluation within the time limits mentioned above.  If that happens, you repeatedly write the special education director until he or she does what they’re supposed to do.  Again, keep copies of your letters/emails.  
  4. If any of the things happens and you don’t get the evaluation, ask them for a “prior written notice” explaining their refusal to conduct an initial evaluation.  That will usually get them moving because they know you’re serious.  If you get a notice of refusal or they still do nothing, you can pursue mediation or a hearing in administrative court because they’ve violated your rights as a parent.