As a parents’ special education attorney in Connecticut, I hear outrageous statements that parents are told by their school districts on an almost daily basis. But, sometimes, I am told something that passes the realm of outrageous, and crosses into ridiculous.
Such statements mislead or misrepresent the school’s legal obligations, and always in a way that benefits the school district.
After hearing so many of them, I decided to add a separate category to my blog just for this purpose, where I will post these ridiculous comments and explain why it likely violates IDEA. Hopefully, if you’ve heard similar things from your district, next time around you will know better!
Today’s Ridiculous Comment
Recently I attended an IEP meeting on behalf of a client who has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. The district had asked its Occupational Therapist (“OT”) to do an evaluation. When the OT reported her findings, the parents were disappointed, because it was quite clear to them (and me) that the evaluation was neither thorough nor accurate. My response was to ask for an IEE.
The Director of Special Education was so clearly underwhelmed by his own OT's evaluation that he agreed to it, no questions asked.
We were feeling pretty comfortable as we started discussing names of private evaluators on whom we could agree to do the IEE. The tone of the meeting had gone from tense to fairly cooperative. Until…
The OT decided to weigh in…with today's Ridiculous Comment.
“I'm sorry, I'm just a little confused. An evaluation is performed in order to decide whether a child should get services. She already gets services, so why would we do another evaluation?
It was hard to know which was more entertaining, the swiftness with which the Special Ed Director lept over the table to shut the OT up, or the look of sheer humiliation on the part of the school's attorney. If pressed, I'd vote for the latter.
Evaluations do far more than just determine whether a child is entitled to services. Evaluations DRIVE PROGRAMMING. They assist the team in designing intervention.
Or at least they should.
I'm considering having a card made up that I can hand out at IEP meetings that says:
“Congratulations! You've just said something so ridiculous that you've become a blog post at www.SpecialEdJustice.com!”
So, the next time you hear this comment, that evaluations are only necessary to determine eligibility, I suggest you ask this question: “are you saying that children in this district are only evaluated to determine eligibility, never to provide information about programs?” If the answer is “no,” then you're on your way. If they answer “yes,” then do your best to make sure that is reflected either in the documentation of that IEP meeting itself, or in a follow up from you.