Independent Educational Evaluations: Use it or Lose it

In special education law, independent educational evaluations are important both to inform parents and school districts about the unique needs of a student. Parents can pay privately for an evaluation at any time, and share the results with the school district at a Team meeting.

Parents can choose whether to share an evaluation. Sometimes, for example, evaluations contain private information that might not be appropriate to share with a school district.

However, a Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) hearing officer recently found that when parents did not share an evaluation with a Team, they could not use that evaluation as evidence at hearing. The strongly worded opinion serves as a warning that parents should either use an evaluation at the Team level or lose it if the matter requires a BSEA hearing.

In Richmond Consolidated School District (“RCS”) – BSEA # 14-10881, the hearing officer decided that the school district’s IEP provided FAPE when the parents were unable to present sufficient evidence to the contrary. The parents could not rely on an independent evaluation that they had not previously shared with the Team.

Hearing officer Raymond Oliver wrote, “By not providing this report to Richmond, the TEAM process could not be fully implemented. By all accounts, the TEAM would have convened to review this report in the same manner it had convened to review other reports and information that was presented to them. To allow the parents to rely on the testimony and report of Ms. Imperatore and Ms. Odato-Staed to attempt to prove that the IEP was not reasonably calculated to provide a FAPE to Mark, would circumvent the TEAM process, violate the special education laws and prejudice the school district. I, therefore, have not given any weight to the testimony of Ms. Imperator or Odato-Staed or their respective report.” (emphasis supplied)

Read the full decision here