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

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Last month, we posted Independent Evaluations: Should parents provide a copy to the school? at http://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/independent-evaluations-should-parents-provide-a-copy-for-the-school/

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 Principles for Professional Ethics published by the National Association of School Psychologists and available at – https://www.nasponline.org/assets/Documents/Standards%20and%20Certification/Standards/1_%20Ethical%20Principles.pdf

After reading the Principles, 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 Principles for Professional Ethics.

Services to Children

“School psychologists provide effective services to help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally.

School psychologists provide direct educational and mental health services for children and youth, as well as work with parents, educators, and other professionals to create supportive learning and social environments for all children.

School psychologists provide services to schools and families that enhance the competence and well-being of children, including promotion of effective and safe learning environments, prevention of academic and behavior problems, response to crises, and improvement of family–school collaboration.” (page 1)

Advocacy, Commitment to the Rights of Students

“School psychologists are committed to the application of their professional expertise for the purpose of promoting improvement in the quality of life for students, families, and school communities. This objective is pursued in ways that protect the dignity and rights of those involved.

School psychologists consider the interests and rights of children and youth to be their highest priority in decision making, and act as advocates for all students.

These assumptions necessitate that school psychologists ‘‘speak up’’ for the needs and rights of students even when it may be difficult to do so.

Furthermore, as school employees, school psychologists have a legal as well as an ethical obligation to take steps to protect all students from reasonably foreseeable risk of harm.”  (page 2)

“School psychologists use their professional expertise to promote changes in schools and community service systems that will benefit children and other clients.

They advocate for school policies and practices that are in the best interests of children and that respect and protect the legal rights of students and parents.” (page 12)

“School psychologists have a special obligation to speak up for the rights and welfare of students and families, and to provide a voice to clients who cannot or do not wish to speak for themselves. Advocacy also occurs when school psychologists use their expertise in psychology and education to promote changes in schools, systems, and laws that will benefit schoolchildren, other students, and families.” (page 11)

Responsibilities to Families and Parent Support

“School psychologists encourage and promote parental participation in school decisions affecting their children.” (page 4)

“School psychologists work to correct school practices that are unjustly discriminatory or that deny students, parents, or others their legal rights. They take steps to foster a school climate that is safe, accepting, and respectful of all persons.”

School psychologists strive to ensure that all children have equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from school programs and that all students and families have access to and can benefit from school psychological services.” (page 6)

“School psychologists encourage and promote parental participation in designing interventions for their children. When appropriate, this includes linking interventions between the school and the home, tailoring parental involvement to the skills of the family, and helping parents gain the skills needed to help their children.

School psychologists discuss with parents the recommendations and plans for assisting their children. This discussion takes into account the ethnic/cultural values of the family and includes alternatives that may be available. Subsequent recommendations for program changes or additional services are discussed with parents, including any alternatives that may be available.

Parents are informed of sources of support available at school and in the community.” (page 8)

“School psychologists explain all professional services to clients in a clear, understandable manner.” (page 10)

Promoting Healthy School, Family, and Community Environments

“School psychologists use their expertise in psychology and education to promote school, family, and community environments that are safe and healthy for children.

School psychologists develop partnerships and networks with community service providers and agencies to provide seamless services to children and families.”   (page 12)

Student Information, Record Keeping, Evaluations

“School psychologists ensure that parents have appropriate access to the psychological and educational records of their child.

Parents have a right to access any and all information that is used to make educational decisions about their child.” (page 8)

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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Christy

I have to wonder if the psychologist would be okay with the lack of reciprocity if it were their child. I insist on having the reports one week prior to eligibility/IEP meetings and will reschedule if I do not have them. I also send my “home report” to the team at least one week prior to the meeting. All team members are notified of this when consent is given for the evaluation.

sara

These laws have to take into account the volume of work that goes into evaluating a student and finalizing the ETR report. What difference does it make if the parent(s) get the report at the ETR meeting? I sat in on many and also part of the ETR team. A lot of questions, going through test data and time go into those meetings. From that point, the IEP can be written after having the ETR. When the meeting is set,allow enough time to review the report and for questions.
There just has to be some advocacy for the schools and professionals responsible for the time and work that goes into ETR and IEP’s. Everyone has concern to do what is best for the student. I feel that it is gone too far the other way that the school is always at fault. Does anyone else feel this way?

SJS

Still confused, I just talked with an employee from the Ohio Dept. of Ed and she said the ETR is NOT part of the child’s record until it’s agreed upon and signed by both parties. So the school does NOT have to provide a draft copy. But Pete’s response seems to differ……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. “

Teach C

I am a teacher and had a parent recently table a meeting because the school district did not provide her with copies of the psychological, PT, SP Evans, etc with 5 days before the meeting. My question is, do school districts have to provide copies to a prent without a request in writing? Do school districts have to provide those copies 5 days prior to the CSE meeting date? Lastly, can school districts give copies of reports to parents for the first time at the meeting? Thank you for any answers!

Mom

Still having this issue today, 2017! School refuses to give parents a copy of report, first stating they only give it in person because they need to interpret it to parents, then using the “it’s not a record until we share it” line. Lawyers and advocates say this is incorrect and not following the regs. How do parents build trust and a great team when schools guard OUR own CHILD’s information from us?! I have a masters degree- I really don’t need it interpreted! Plus the national school psychologists association ethics say school psychs must write reports that the reader can understand and use, so they are fault if they write a report that only they can understand.

Nanny

What is an MDT meeting. Our school district will not give us a draft copy of the the FBA report prior to the meeting to go over the FBA, BIP. Parental request to get the draft copy for meaningful participation in the meeting was denied on the grounds that the evaluator has not had the opportunity to review it with us parents. They say no finalized FBA can be made until the entire team meets.We are aware that the school’s usual practice is to prewrite an FBA, BIP and then narrate it to the parents at the meeting.. Our problem is that that meeting is usually the IEP meeting where the document is signed and made binding. This does not give us a chance to digest the massive information they provide, We are not able offer any meaningful input without analyzing their data ahead of time.

Eloise

Our school psychologist insists that the Evaluation Report be presented in Finalized form with no possibility of adding or changing anything in it at the Evaluation meeting with the parent. J

Anna

“If a parent requests a copy of the evaluation report before the IEP Meeting, there is a legal mandate to provide a copy”. – this statement is not accurate. I was told that a report has not yet become a record because it maybe still be in process of development. There is no law that says a report has to be given to parents ahead of time. Reports are often not even ready before the meeting. School records at the other hand can be requested at any time.

Veronica

Anna – sounds like a lot of malarkey from the school. The report “in process” has “not yet become a record.” What??

US Dept of Ed says it in it’s own words. p.46645 of the Commentary
“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…”

If there is a “report,” it exists, and DOE says parents have a right to inspect and review it. If there are no test results reported yet, the report is incomplete… then there’s no test data or recommendations to inform the team’s decisions. Wouldn’t you need to reschedule the IEP meeting until the “report” can be reviewed? Nothing to do with whether or not the school has made it “become a record” yet.

Rachael

It has everything to do with the evaluation report becoming a record. A draft of an evaluation report or a draft IEP is not considered a student record. Therefore, school districts are not required to provide it to the parent before an evaluation meeting. The draft report will never become part of a student’s record. The final report will become part of the student’s school record and therefore, the district is required to provide a copy of the final report to the parents. This article is so misleading.

Maureen

I would love Pete and Pam’s response on this:
Is a parent entitled to a copy of the DRAFT IEP prior to the meeting?

I had always presumed not, that the intent of the meeting was to actually create that draft based on eval results and current performance levels (assuming it is an annual review)
In the past each district (state of MA) also destroyed all DRAFTs before exiting the room where the meeting was held. This meant that parents did not leave with a copy of the DRAFT even after the meeting.
As of late, a new practice seems to be in place. The district simply labels the IEP as ‘Proposed’ and all parties exit with a copy of the document.