Common Legal Mistakes Parents of Children with Special Education Needs Make, But Can Avoid: Part IX

Published on May 2, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

Part nine in the Series:  Unfortunately, prevailing in a legal dispute against your school district is very difficult, so if you can avoid some common traps, why not just avoid them? If you’ve already done one of these things, don’t give up hope, but do try to rectify the situation. If you haven’t done any of these things, DON’T, it could lose your case one day.

MISTAKE #9:  Withholding Outside Evaluations from the School District

As a matter of law, if a parent privately funds and obtains an outside evaluation of their child, they are generally not required to share it with their child’s school.  However, as a practical matter, unless the evaluation is extremely misleading or inaccurate, I highly recommend that you timely share any and all educational evaluations you obtain on your child with your school district.

Many parents think that the school district would never know about that one report they didn’t share, but trust me, it comes out.

If you do end up in litigation with your school district, inevitably every single evaluation on the child comes out.  All it takes is one witness who references a fact that they learned in that report, including one of the parents, for this unknown and unshared evaluation to suddenly take on a life of its own.  If the first time the school district has learned of an evaluation is in the context of a Due Process Hearing, you will now have two problems:  first, you look like you’re hiding something; and second, the school now has an “excuse” for not providing an appropriate program: they weren’t in possession of all of the information.

I have never read an evaluation that had information in it that was as damaging as withholding it from the school district was.

I know, it’s not fair.  They didn’t pay for it, you did.  But I am talking about how things actually play out in these disputes, not whether it’s just.   My experience is that it is much, much preferable to give them the reports you obtain, even if you send it with a cover letter indicating that you don’t agree with the some or all of the recommendations.

Legally, it is your district’s obligation to make sure they have evaluated your child with special education needs in all areas of suspected disability, and the information necessary to program for him or her.  That is their obligation whether you privately evaluate or not.  But if you choose to have your child tested outside of the school, for whatever reason,  go ahead and give the district copies of the report soon after you receive it.

In fact, you should not only send it, but send it in a way that you can later prove its receipt.

One Response to Common Legal Mistakes Parents of Children with Special Education Needs Make, But Can Avoid: Part IX

  1. Rochelle Dolim
    August 25th, 2009 | 4:55 am

    They seem to be free to withhold documentation from parents. We found an evaluation from kindergarten that clearly indicated autism. We didn’t know about it until a visual review in middle school. Visual reviews have since been cut off. The USOE actually allowed one of the people being investigated to access the files for the investigation; the records access sheet proves this.
    Their evaluations are done by their own personnel who come into it knowing what they expect to find (whose jobs are on the line); kind of defeats the purpose of the evaluation.