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Parent's Options Regarding the Proposed Evaluation

Angela Oswalt Morelli , MSW, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Once the caregiver receives the school's evaluation plan, they can do three things:

3D figure with choice to make1) They can accept it "as is" and sign consent on the plan, allowing the school to move forward with the evaluation,

2) They can accept it with conditions, such as requesting additional assessments be performed or other documentation from the children's other therapists, doctors, and specialists be included. The parent can sign the evaluation plan to give permission to evaluate, with those conditions. If parents pick this option, the school will continue with the evaluation process if they agree with the conditions.

3) If parents totally disagree with the evaluation plan, they should return a letter explaining their concerns about particular evaluation tool or the evaluator's credentials and then indicate what evaluations they do agree with or what evaluator credentials they believe are appropriate. If parents do not agree with the evaluation plan and do not sign consent, the process will not move forward until the parents sign off on an evaluation plan.

Often, schools will try to negotiate with parents about what evaluation changes will satisfy the parents. If a school feels like their evaluation is fair, they can choose to push forward with remediation or due process proceedings, but they rarely choose to do so. If parents ultimately reject an evaluation plan, this releases the schools from being required to create an IEP. Parents should keep copies of all this documentation in an organized way, particularly is there is any chance of future legal proceedings. Once the school receives the parent's written consent for the evaluation, it has 60 calendar days to complete the evaluation, unless that state's law differs from the Federal law. Therefore, if Mom signs her consent on the evaluation proposal September 15, the evaluation needs to be completed by November 15. However, if the family moves or if the parent fails to bring the student in for the evaluation dates, then the 60-day requirement is not valid.

Parents Can Inspect Their Child's Academic Record

Parents can use the time between signing off on the evaluation plan and obtaining the evaluation results to educate themselves as to the precise nature of their child's disability so as to become better informed, and prepared for upcoming meetings with the school. Such preparation will ensure they will be able to best advocate for their child when necessary.

Apart from learning about any suspected diagnoses or syndromes their child may have, parents can also request their children's academic files, including their children's academic history including grade cards, standardized test scores, disciplinary reports, attendance records, and other teacher observations. According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), all parents have the legal right to review their children's full academic record. Individual state law may more specifically govern how parents may request and get these files.

Parents should make their FERPA request in the form of a signed and dated written letter requesting the entire academic file and send it to the special education coordinator at the school. This request should be made as soon as possible so that the school has time to send the information and parents have time to review it prior to the evaluation outcome meeting. According to FERPA, schools must provide these files within 45 days of the request, and some state laws require it even sooner. Accordingly, a request to view the academic record might be sent along with the original request for evaluation so as to allow the school time to fulfill the request. Schools are allowed to charge a fair price to reimburse them for the costs associated with photocopying of records. If parents feel that the school is asking for an unfair amount of money, or if parents feel like the cost is too much for them to afford, they can send another letter requesting a reduction or waiver for the fee citing those reasons.