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Failure to respond to parental request for an independent educational evaluation costs school district time and money

July 14, 2021

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By: Lily Crespo Esq.

Quick takeaway: When a parent requests an IEE, the district has two options: 1) fund the IEE; or 2) file for due process. As this district learned, ignoring the parent’s request usually means that an ALJ or court will choose option 1 for the district. Had this district filed for due process to defend its evaluations — as it did with its OT evaluation — it might have avoided paying for the IEEs. But by ignoring the parent’s request, the district now has to not only fund the IEEs, but may be on the hook for her legal expenses too.

What happened: Due to a California school district’s failure to appropriately respond to her requests, the mother of a first-grade student with an intellectual disability and autism was entitled to at least three publicly funded independent educational evaluations, according to the U.S. District Court, Central District of California. The court partially reversed an administrative law judge’s decision finding that the mother was only entitled to one IEE.

Background of the case: A California school district’s utter silence in response to a mother’s request for multiple separate independent educational evaluations for her son with an intellectual disability and autism proved to be a costly decision.

  • Noting that the district’s failure to respond to the mother’s requested IEEs eliminated its ability to challenge the appropriateness of those requests, the U.S. District Court, Central District of California partially reversed the ALJ’s decision. The court ordered the district to fully fund all of the mother’s requested IEEs.
  • Among other claims, the mother challenged the ALJ’s findings that the district appropriately evaluated her son under the IDEA and failed to fund her requested IEEs. The court explained that under the IDEA, the mother is entitled to a district-funded IEE for a district evaluation, to which she disagrees, unless the district files for due process and establishes that its evaluation was appropriate.
    • It noted that the when the mother disagreed with the district’s speech-language, functional behavior, OT, and assistive technology evaluations and requested IEEs, the district failed to fund the IEEs, file for due process, or otherwise respond in any way.
  • The court recognized that the ALJ correctly determined that the district denied the student FAPE with this failure to respond, but erred when she only ordered the district to fund a speech-language IEE. According to the ALJ, the mother failed to prove the district’s other assessments were inappropriate or to “demonstrate a deprivation of educational benefit” resulting from the district’s failure to respond. However, the court emphasized that the district’s silence, standing alone, was enough to warrant the requested IEEs, as the “unexplained delay in failing to respond to [the mother’s] IEE request waived its right to contest the request.” Accordingly, the court ordered the district to fund all of the mother’s requested IEEs. The name of the case is D. by Nailian H. v. Garvey Sch. Dist., 121 LRP 20353 (C.D. Cal. 2021).

As you consider these and other issues, we recommend you speak with your school lawyer or contact Bea, Kevin, Megan, Beth, and Lily by email or at 406-542-1300 to discuss these issues.

Kaleva Law

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