Getting your child evaluated for supports at school is a process. And you and your child have legal rights every step of the way. Evaluations for special education and related services are covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Here are 11 important legal rights to know if you’re considering having your child evaluated:
The Right to Request an Evaluation
You can request an evaluation at any time. Your child’s teacher or other school personnel can also recommend that your child be evaluated for services.
The Right to Receive Written Notice of the School’s Decision
Your child’s school has to explain why it denied or accepted your request, and what other options it considered. This is called prior written notice. It also has to tell you how to find more information about IDEA and the evaluation process.
The Right to Give (or Refuse) Consent
In most cases, the school can’t do an evaluation without your consent. You must be fully informed, understand the process and agree to it in writing. This is known as informed consent. At any time, you can change your mind and withdraw your consent.
The Right to a Prompt Evaluation
Once the school agrees to evaluate your child, IDEA requires they do it within 60 calendar days. But if your state law has a different time frame, that’s the one that’s used.
The Right to a Thorough Evaluation
It’s not enough for the school to use one test or measure to determine if your child has a learning disability. It must include a variety of tests and data collected from you and his teachers. The goal is to get a full picture of his functional, developmental and academic abilities.
The Right to Be Free of Discrimination
An evaluation can’t discriminate against kids based on their race, culture or language. Tests and procedures must be done in a child’s native language (unless it clearly isn’t possible to do so). This could be a foreign language, sign language, Braille or a communication technology.
The Right to Be a Member of the Team
Parents are members of the IEP team. You know your child best; your input is invaluable in the evaluation process. The team must also include a general education teacher and a specialist qualified to do the testing for the evaluation. You’re entitled to a copy of the evaluation report and supporting documents at no cost.
The Right to Special Education Services
There are 13 disabilities listed in IDEA. If your child has one or more of these disabilities and needs special education and related services, the school must provide those services.
The Right to Appeal Decisions
If your child’s school won’t do an evaluation, you can file a due process or state complaint to try to get one. If you disagree with the results of an evaluation, you can use due process to try to make the school redo some or all of it.
The Right to an Independent Educational Evaluation
If you disagree with the results of a school evaluation, you’re entitled to get an independent educational evaluation (IEE). This is done by an outside specialist, but you can request that the school pay for it. If the school feels that an IEE isn’t needed, it can start a due process hearing to show why. You can also pay for an IEE on your own, but it can be very expensive.
The Right to a Re-Evaluation
If your child already receives special education services, the school typically must re-evaluate your child at least every three years. You can request a re-evaluation more often (but not more than once a year). The school must have your consent to do new testing but not to review existing data on your child.
Understanding your rights in the evaluation process may increase your chances for getting services for your child. Learning more about IDEA and the entire evaluation process may also help. But the road to getting special education and related services begins with knowing if your child has a disability. Taking one of our symptom quizzes can help you begin to find out.