Predetermination in Special Education – What Can You Do About It?

Are you the parent of a child with autism, learning disability, or a physical disability that has been struggling to get your child an appropriate special education? Do you think that special education personnel come to Individual Educational Plan (IEP) meetings already decided about your child’s placement or needed services? This article will be discussing predetermination, special education, and ways to overcome this.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that a child has the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Parents have the right to be involved in all decisions made for their child’s education. Special education personnel may bring a draft IEP to the meeting, but only if they are willing to change the IEP to allow parental input.

Predetermination is defined as school personnel making unilateral decisions about a child before the IEP meeting, without parental input, and refusing to listen to parental input during the meeting. Or school district personnel presenting a take it or leave it IEP. If a parent brings information that a child needs a particular related or special education service and evidence that the child needs it, school district personnel are required to at least “consider” the input. The problem is that many special education personnel have already decided or predetermined what placement or services will be offered.

In a well know predetermination case the court found that a school district had an unofficial policy of denying all requests for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) programs; despite evidence that a child required it. In this case the parents paid for a private ABA program in which the child made tremendous progress. The school district was excited about the child’s progress until the parents asked for reimbursement; then they refused to pay. The court found that the school district would not listen to the parents or their experts, about the child’s need for ABA. This was predetermination and the courts ruled that the parents had the right to reimbursement for the private ABA program.

In another predetermination case the court found that despite evidence that a child was making great progress at a private school, and continued to need the services that the private school offered, the school district only placed the child in the private school because they were working on a plan to transition him to a district based placement. They refused to listen to the parent or the parents experts, that the child needed to continue to attend the private school to receive FAPE. The court determined that this was predetermination; and the child was able to continue at the private school at public expense.

It is my opinion that predetermination occurs when a school district makes unilateral decisions about a child’s education despite evidence to the contrary, and refuses meaningful parental input. Also when a take it or leave it IEP is presented to parents.

How to overcome predetermination:

1. Bring documentation of your child’s educational needs to the IEP meeting and share with special education personnel; schools must consider all information brought by parents.

2. Parents must be meaningful participants in the IEP process. Relay the court rulings to special education personnel that if a parent is not allowed meaningful participation in the development of their child’s IEP, predetermination and denial of FAPE may be found.

3. If special education personnel still refuse to allow you input or only give one option for services or placement, consider a state complaint for violation of IDEA.

4. Have an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) performed on your child to determine what related and special education services your child needs. Make sure that the evaluator you pick is not only willing to test your child but to write a comprehensive and concise report that includes recommendations for needed related and special education services.

Predetermination is harmful for children with disabilities because it denies children the services that they need to benefit from their education. Keep advocating-your child is worth it!

Criteria For IEE’s at Public Expense – Can Special Education Personnel Do That?

Are you a parent who is interested in what criteria special education personnel can use for an Independent Educational Evaluation at Public Expense? Have you been denied an IEE at public expense, because you refuse to go along with strict criteria set by your school district? This article will discuss what criteria special education personnel are allowed to set for IEE’s at public expense.

The Office of Special Education Programs does allow school districts to make criteria for IEE’s at public expense if:

a. Parents are allowed to ask for a waiver of the criteria if their child’s disability warrants it, or
b. The criteria do not prevent the parent from getting the IEE at public expense.

Below is a discussion of the criteria that school districts are allowed to set: (Just remember that the criteria cannot prevent the parent from getting the IEE at public expense)

1. Professional qualifications; An independent evaluator must be at least as qualified, as special education personnel, who do the testing in the school district. If you want an independent evaluator who is more qualified than school person, you must put that in your initial request for an IEE at public expense.

A lot of conflict often occurs because parents want their child tested by a Clinical psychologist not a School psychologist; which increases the cost.

If you can prove, that unique circumstances require a clinical psychologist, then your school district may agree. If they do not, they should file for a due process hearing.

2. Cost; A lot of school districts, place very low cost on independent educational evaluations at public expense. A good qualified independent evaluator is going to cost quite a bit, depending on the profession and location. If the evaluation that you want is going to cost more than the amount stated by your school district, tell them that you are asking for a cost waiver because of unique circumstances. They may ask you to list the unique circumstances, which is allowed.

Another issue is that school personnel cannot prevent you from getting an IEE at public expense. If they make the cost too low, then you will not be able to get the evaluation.

3. Geographical; Some school districts want you to stay within a certain geographic area. Again they can do it, if it does not prevent you from getting the evaluation.

Below is criteria school districts are not allowed to set:

1. Pick from this list of Evaluators: This is not allowed by the Office of Special Education Programs which is part of the Department of Education.

2. We will pay but we get to pick the evaluator: Also not allowed by OSEP. On February 20, 2004 OSEP published a policy letter regarding IEE’s at public expense. In this letter OSEP states: It is the parent, not the district, who has the right to choose which evaluator. . .will conduct the evaluation.

3. If you want an IEE at public expense you must file for a due process hearing. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is clear; either school districts pay for the evaluation of they file for a due process hearing to prove that their evaluation is correct. This is important because in some states the burden of proof at due process rests on the party that files.

4. We want to determine specifically what tests are done. IDEA states that parents and school districts must agree on areas to be tested, not on the tests themselves. If an agreement cannot be reached then special education personnel must file for a due process hearing.

By understanding what criteria special education personnel can make for an IEE at public expense, you will be in a better position to get an IEE at public expense for your child.

5 Things to Do If Special Education Personnel Refuse to Test Your Child For Eligibility

Do you have a child that you think might have dyslexia or another learning disability, and your school is refusing to test them for it? Are you concerned that your child may have autism or pervasive developmental disorder and your school district states that they will not test them? If your school district is refusing to conduct a comprehensive assessment on your child to determine special education eligibility, this article is for you. This article will discuss 5 things that you can do as a parent, if your school district is refusing to evaluate your child.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states under the Child Find section that: school districts are required to locate, identify and evaluate all children that may have a disability. Also someone transitioning from Early Intervention (birth-three years old), must be evaluated to determine if they are eligible for special education services. School districts are not allowed to depend on screening to determine eligibility for special education.

Here are 5 things you can do if your child is refused special education eligibility testing:

1. Gather your evidence together about their disability, and there need for special education services. Perhaps reports of your child’s disability, copies of state and district wide testing to show academic need, any documentation of emotional and behavioral difficulty, any evidence of social problems, and also any diagnosis that has been given by their Dr.

2. Take your child to get an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) with a qualified professional! You will have to pay for the evaluation, but you may be able to be reimbursed later. To find a good evaluator, ask other parents, or contact a local disability organization. Before you make the appointment make sure that the evaluator is not the present employee of any school district, is willing to do comprehensive evaluations in several areas, is willing to write a comprehensive report not only about testing but about what services your child needs. If the evaluator is a present employee of a school district, or waffles on specifically stating what services are needed, find a different evaluator! Getting copies of testing without specific recommendations is like paying for half an evaluation!

3. When the report is received (and your child has been found to have a disability and educational need) contact your school district in writing and send them a copy of the report. Ask that an eligibility conference be held again, since new information has now been received. School districts must consider any independent evaluations brought by parents.

4. Before the eligibility conference, try and find an experienced parent or an advocate to go with you to the meeting. The eligibility conference is the most important conference in special education. With the new information your child hopefully will be found eligible for special education (a child must have two things to be eligible for special education: a disability and educational needs). If the school district uses the information from the IEE ask for reimbursement.

5. If after all of this trying your child still is found not eligible, your only option may be to file for a due process hearing. This hearing is very formal and is heard in front of a hearing officer, not a judge. Try and find an experienced parent or advocate, to help you in this process.

Even if your child is found not eligible there are options available to you! Do not give up because your child is depending on you!