A formal evaluation is one of the first steps in getting your child the school services she needs. The general rule is that a school must evaluate your child if it knows or “suspects” she has a disability—this covers many learning and thinking differences. But sometimes a school will refuse to evaluate. Here are steps you can take if that happens.
Ask the school why it refused to evaluate.
If the school refuses to evaluate, it must tell you why in writing. Ask for details about why the school doesn’t suspect your child has a disability. Remember that school evaluators can’t refuse to evaluate your child because they want to use response to intervention (RTI) first.
Call a meeting with the school.
Discuss your concerns face-to-face and on the record with school officials. If they still refuse to evaluate, ask for information on your legal rights.
Consider an independent educational evaluation.
An independent evaluation can help show your child’s need for services. The school generally isn’t required to pay for this, however.
Contact a Parent Training and Information Center (PTI).
Each state has a Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) to help parents with free information on evaluations and the special education process.
File a due process complaint.
If the school won’t budge, you can file a written complaint saying that the school was wrong to refuse to evaluate.
Make sure your request was in writing.
If you haven’t already, make sure you sent a written letter requesting a formal evaluation and listing the reasons your child needs one.
You can ask for mediation with the school. This is when a neutral third party works with you and the school to reach an agreement.
Talk to an advocate or lawyer.
For a fee, an advocate or lawyer can help you navigate the evaluation process and decide what to do next.
Consider filing a state complaint.
If the school violated special education law, you may want to file a written complaint to your state department of education.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.
Virginia Gryta, MS teaches and mentors students working toward master’s degrees and certification in special education at Hunter College.