I hope you never have to get there, but there may come a time in your child’s education where you have a serious enough disagreement with your school district that you have to request a Mediation or initiate a Due Process Hearing. Parents are required to cooperate with their school districts in developing IEPs for their children, but there are a number of common mistakes you can make which will make you look like you aren’t.
Now, I know what you’re saying: “Jen, we’ve cooperated with them for years and now my son can’t read!” or “they have had all of this time to try to evaluate her and now I am the one who has to be patient?”
Let me just say this: I didn’t say it was fair.
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 made this mistake, don’t give up hope, but do try to rectify the situation. If you haven’t made this mistake, DON’T, since it could lose your case for you down the road.
MISTAKE #1: Refusing permission for the school district to evaluate your child.
There is a whole body of legal precedent which says that Parents who do this forfeit their right to reimbursement of out of district services or placements. This has been held even where it might pose harm to the child to be tested. If your district requests permission to evaluate your child, give it.
I am not saying that you should simply sign anything that they put in front of you; you obviously want to make sure that any consent you are giving is informed. But trust me, a parent refusing permission for testing is the easiest way for a school district to get “off the hook” for a denial of a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The school will be able to respond that they would have offered an appropriate program if only they’d been able to get all the necessary information.
Remember, this applies not just to consent to evaluate in general, but consent for particular instruments and tests the school has requested. If you are going to fight your district over testing, wait until they’ve had their chance, then ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). Otherwise, you’re giving them a “get out of jail free” card!