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David:  The school district psychologist evaluated our child and recommended a contracted placement at a special private school because of the level of our child’s disability. The district Special Ed officials are not abiding by their own psychologist’s recommendation. They continue to assert that schools within the District can provide FAPE. Can they ignore their own psychologist’s data and evaluation?

  1. The LEA, ultimately has the final say in placement for services and delivery in many states, under IDEA. The parent has options, including to reject the plan and services. A parent may refuse services, however this might mean your child receives no services.

    The district is afforded the opportunity to provide services to your child and is under no obligation to follow the recommendations of any team member. The IEP is required to discuss the disagreement and many states have a procedure for documenting such a disagreement. For example, in Oklahoma we have a “comment form” that should be completed at the time of the meeting so the individual can document their disagreement in writing. It does not necessarily change the outcome.

    In regards the private school, the district has the right to attempt to provide services. Careful documentation of the district providing services along with appropriate progress monitoring or reporting should be provided to you by the district at a frequency of no less than the timeframe for district reporting of general education students (report cards). This is a federal law.

    The IEP team is required to develop goals that are ambitious (or whatever term there SCOTU used) to show progress is being met. De minimus no longer applies to special education.

    If your child is not making appropriate progress to the teams IEP goals within an appropriate time frame (usually a year), then you might be able to request the district pay for a private school. However, you would need a lot of documentation indicating that despite the districts best efforts, your child continues to fall behind and that the school is unable to adequately educate your child.

    This is all hypothetical. Honestly, I’m not sure how the Psychologist is making this recommendation. It sounds like the district had a contracted psychologist and not a district employed psychologist on a teacher contract. Usually when a Psych makes that type of recommendation, they are private practice and an advocate for alternative settings, which is fine.

  2. Placement decisions are made by the IEP team as a whole–not individuals. How did the placement conversation go at the IEP meeting? Were the district special ed administrators there? If not, you might want to consider asking for ALL parties to sit down in the same place at the same time and work through the placement discussion. That’s how teams are supposed to work.

    • The District psychologist and the SpEd supervisor have both been part of the IEP team meetings. The District psychologist asserts our child needs to be at a school where the faculty is highly trained in Orton-Gillngham methodology. The SpEd supervisor says that the District school will be fine because a few teachers had 16 hours of O-G training over the summer. The District psychologists says that is level of training is insufficient for our child’s needs based on what his evaluation results revealed. We are at an impasse and stuck in the middle of the two District employees disagreeing over what is appropriate for our child. Advice?

      • You may have no other choice at this time other than what is recommended by the special ed supervisor. However, I would strongly encourage you to work with the school to develop a plan for monitoring your child’s progress in that placement AND when to meet to review the progress as an IEP team. IEPs do NOT have to be written for a year. The IEP could be written for six months (or whatever amount of time the team decides is appropriate) and at the end of that time the group could reconvene to review progress and decide whether a more restrictive placement at a private school is warranted.

        • Amy, I understand your point, that the IEP is a team decision and the school psychologist is just one member of the team. Yet, doesn’t an IEP and placement decision need to be based on data? And isn’t the psychologist’s evaluation report that data? Our child has been in public school and he has not made academic progress and he has regressed behaviorally, so I am hesitant to keep trying public school just for the sake of monitoring and if the District’s psychologist is recommending something that would better address our child’s learning needs. The issue seems to be that the District will not budge on even considering private placement despite their own data recommending it. Is it time for legal action?

          • I agree with Chuck. Decisions are made by the IEP team, with the school psychologist being a single member. It sounds like your son’s IEP team is not using the psychologist’s data/report in the way you hoped they would. The team has an obligation to document (in writing) the various placement options that were considered, why an option was rejected, and provide justification (again–in writing) for their recommended placement. This information should be provided in your son’s evaluation report completed by the school. These three items are required portions of any special education evaluation report. Get a copy of your son’s report and read it thoroughly, if you haven’t already.

  3. Despite internal, or external recommendations, decisions are made by the IEP team. They should document the basis of their decision, & be prepared to defend it.

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