Assessment, assessment, assessment
When parents see me for an initial consultation, it is a virtual certainty that I will recommend that they obtain independent assessments to determine their child’s strengths and weaknesses and to recommend appropriate educational services. The opinions of even the most informed parents mean little in the context of an IEP meeting or, subsequently, in a due process hearing. In reality, although they are required to consider any assessment obtained by the parents, districts typically ignore them but it is nevertheless important that the parents provide any independent assessments they obtained to the district so that it at least had an opportunity to consider them.
Independent assessments obtained by the parents are essential to providing guidance in terms of the child’s needs and appropriate services. Assuming that the dispute with the school district results in a due process hearing, parents have no chance of prevailing without the reports, and testimony, of qualified experts who are familiar with the child’s needs and the educational program offered by the district. Administrative due process hearings are essentially expert witness battles and this has been recognized by the United States Supreme Court. (Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U.S.) 49, 60-61 (2005).
Whether or not the parents should request, prior to obtaining an independent educational evaluation, that the District fund the assessment depends on a variety of factors specific to each situation. Ultimately, the parents’ success, or failure, in obtaining an appropriate educational program is determined by both evidence of the inadequacy of the program offered by the District and the veracity of the independent assessments obtained by the parents.