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School Evaluations: Should schools provide parents with a copy before an IEP meeting?

06/20/08
by Wrightslaw

Last month, we posted Independent Evaluations: Should parents provide a copy to the school? at http://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/?p=30#

That post elicited a number of comments before dropping off the sidebar. Recently, a school psychologist added comment about reasons why she did not provide parents with a copy of reports before IEP meetings. Her comment included inaccuracies so we decided to start a new thread on this topic.

As a school psychologist who serves over 2,000 students and writes over 120 reports a year, I have to say that in most cases in which I do not provide a copy of my report when such a report is requested, it is because it is not complete until the day (or shortly before) the meeting.

I would add that there is no legal mandate for such a report to be provided BEFORE the team meets.

On the other hand, by not providing the team with external reports with some time for perusal, you (the parent/client) risk those data being less than fully taken into account.

The relationship may not be a fully reciprocal one, but such is the nature of the beast.

Pete: The school psychologist stated that there is no legal mandate to provide the parent with a copy of the report before the meeting. This is not correct. If a parent requests a copy of the evaluation report before the IEP Meeting, there is a legal mandate to provide a copy.

The psycho-educational evaluation is an education record. See 34 CFR 300.613(a) which states that if a parent requests those records, “The agency must comply with a request without unnecessary delay and before any meeting regarding an IEP. . .” There is no wiggle room about this requirement – including poor time management practices by the school district. (The reg is located on page 272 in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Ed.)

The question of parental entitlement to educational records before a meeting is also addressed in the Commentary to the Federal Special Education Regulations at page 46645 (bottom of second column through third column). The US Department of Education, responding to comments about the proposed special education regulations, and as a part of the issuance of the final Regs, stated:

Comment: One commenter recommended that parents receive evaluation reports prior to an IEP Team meeting because the reports may have information that parents need to participate in making decisions about the IEP. The commenter stated that, if parents receive reports at meetings, rather than before the meetings, they cannot be active participants. Another commenter stated that parents should be provided with copies of documents related to the determination of eligibility at least five days prior to the eligibility determination meeting.

Discussion: The Act does not establish a timeline for providing a copy of the evaluation report or the documentation of determination of eligibility to the parents and we do not believe that a specific timeline should be included in the regulations because this is a matter that is best left to State and local discretion. It is, however, important to ensure that parents have the information they need to participate meaningfully in IEP Team meetings, which may include reviewing their child’s records. Section 300.613(a) requires a public agency to comply with a parent request to inspect and review existing education records, including an evaluation report, without unnecessary delay and before any meeting regarding an IEP, and in no case more than 45 days after the request has been made. This includes the right to a response from the public agency to reasonable requests for explanations and interpretations of records, consistent with § 300.613(b)(1).”

Note: The link to the Commentary is http://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/commentary.htm

Pete

Pam: As a psychotherapist, I was concerned about Z’s position, summarized as:

“The relationship may not be a fully reciprocal one, but such is the nature of the beast.”

Why would a psychologist refuse to provide parents with the information they need to participate in educational decision-making for their child? Z’s rationale was two-fold:

(1) I have a large caseload so I don’t write evaluations until the last minute, and
(2) the law does not require me (the school) to provide parents with a copy of the evaluation report before a meeting.

Pete set the record straight on #2. (Note: We don’t know if Z is a man or woman so will refer to Z as “she”.)

I had more questions. Does Z know who the special education law is intended to benefit? Whose interests does Z serve? How does she view her professional role and responsibilities?

To find answers to my questions, I turned to the Professional Conduct Manual & Principles for Professional Ethics published by the National Association of School Psychologists and available at – http://www.nasponline.org/standards/ProfessionalCond.pdf

After reading the Manual, I wondered if Z knows that school psychologists are expected to act as advocates for children and parents. The statements quoted below are taken directly from NASP Professional Conduct Manual.

“The principles in this manual are based on the assumptions that 1) school psychologists will act as advocates for their students/clients, and 2) at the very least, school psychologists will do no harm. These assumptions necessitate that school psychologists “speak up” for the needs and rights of their students/clients even at times when it may be difficult to do so.” (page 13)

Relationships with Parents, Legal Guardians, Appointed Surrogates

“School psychologists explain all services to parents in a clear, understandable manner … School psychologists recognize the importance of parental support and seek to obtain that support by assuring that there is direct parent contact prior to seeing the child on an ongoing basis.” (page 21)

“School psychologists encourage and promote parental participation in designing services provided to their children … School psychologists discuss with parents the recommendations and plans for assisting their children …” (page 21)

“School psychologists avoid any action that could violate or diminish the civil and legal rights of children and other clients.” (page 22)

“School psychologists are committed to … promoting improvement in the quality of life for children, their families, and the school community … parents and children are to be fully informed about all relevant aspects of school psychological services in advance.” (page 17)

The first section under “PROFESSIONAL PRACTICES—GENERAL PRINCIPLES” is about Advocacy.

“School psychologists typically serve multiple clients including children, parents, and systems. When the school psychologist is confronted with conflicts between client groups, the primary client is considered to be the child …” (p 25)

“School psychologists consider children and other clients to be their primary responsibility, acting as advocates for their rights and welfare. If conflicts of interest between clients are present, the school psychologist supports conclusions that are in the best interest of the child.” (page 25)

Supporting Parents

“School psychologists help parents feel comfortable participating in school functions … providing support for them when participating on special education and I.E.P. teams … School psychologists educate the school community regarding the influence of family involvement on school achievement and advocate for parent involvement … ” (p. 50)

“School psychologists work with parent organizations to promote public policy that empowers parents to be competent consumers of the local system of services.” (page 51)

Evaluations

“Parents may inspect and review any personally identifiable data relating to their children that were collected, maintained, or used in his/her evaluation.” (page 56)

It seems that Z may be a product of school culture. “School culture” is a term for the beliefs shared by many educators, psychologists and school administrators. Learn about the incredible power of school culture in The Blame Game: Are Learning Problems the Kids’ Fault? The article is based on a fascinating study of school psychologists by Dr. Galen Alessi, a psychology professor at Western Michigan University. The study and article illustrate why so many parents have problems dealing with school personnel.

Pam

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35 Comments on "School Evaluations: Should schools provide parents with a copy before an IEP meeting?"


luther
12/15/2014

As a parent, I feel something wrong with the entire process. I have a six year old, dignosed with autism, serviced by an IEP since the age of 3. At her first ever triennial IEP it is recommended she be completely exited/dismissed from all spec ed services based on psychoeducational assessment results. althogh she receives speech and language pull out services for language delay in her current IEP, in the assessment, she was alleged to be in the “very superior” range between the 92nd to 99th percentile in each various language area assessed. Yea right, might as well say “Once upon a time, in a land far far away…” I requested independent psychoed assessment, and was told no. District is now filing reverse due process. Statistically I have less than 20% chance of winning in due process, and daughter with autism will be dismissed.

Gina
10/10/2014

Here’s a question I haven’t been able to find the answer to:
If a parent has a documented disability and the IEP team is aware of it, can that parent request evaluations in advance as a reasonable accommodation under ADA?

Thank you! I love your work and appreciate what you do for the special needs community. Couldn’t survive without your advice.

ceebee
09/30/2014

In response to 32Z…just love love love your legal-ese. So much verbage-flinging, I do wonder if you’ve ask yourself, “do these parent’s even possess the intellect to understand what I’m saying?” (FYI, we do). What expectations do you have of the teams you work with? Do you expect your ‘teams’ to actively work together or would you be ok with individuals doing their own thing while they kept you in the dark? I may sound brash but really now, wouldn’t it become rather devisive if you were the LAST one to know what was going on? What if they never let you in on what’s going on? Don’t mean to lambaste you, lovey, but I do take umbrage to this fact: many parents are purposely excised from the ‘team’ early on in their child’s IEP evaluation process. Perhaps oversight or poor time management? I think not.

Wendy C
09/24/2014

We requested an evaluation at the end of the school year. The meeting to review the assessment was sched 9/10, but I would be out of town. I requested a postponement in writing explaining why I could not attend. The SE person called me back saying they HAD to have the mtg w/in 30 days. I stated my email was a legal document, I was requesting the date change, that would satisfy as a hold harmless releasing the school/district from the 30 day requirement. She offered to convene the 9/10 meeting but table it since we would not be there. I stated NO UNLESS T IS TAPED. She stated that might be against their rules, but I clarified, IF WE ARE NOT THERE NO MEETING! At our eval review, yesterday, they presented us with the minutes of the mtg they DID have 9/10, against our wishes. Is that even legal? I was not aware they went ahead w/it.

Bonnie
09/17/2014

In our last IEP meeting we requested copies of the regular ed bus route (length), so we could compare it to the special ed bus route length to ensure that the special ed bus route wasn’t longer than the regular ed bus route. They have scheduled another IEP meeting, so I am assuming that they now have both bus routes documented. Since the IEP meeting isn’t for 2 weeks, do I have legal standing to request the routes now? They aren’t technically part of his educational record.