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!