Mr. Jones has exercised his rights under IDEA and is in the process of obtaining an IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation).  The IEE is to be done by eminent and esteemed psychologist, Dr. Bigbrain.  How eminent and esteemed is this guy? Well….he has many letters after his name.  His glasses frequently slip down on his nose so that he can look over them in a very scholarly manner.  He has a neatly trimmed Van Dyke.  There are elbow patches on his tweed jacket. Rumor has it that he smokes a pipe.  He uses big words.  The man is uber-qualified.

And Bigbrain says that his evaluation must include a classroom observation of the child.  Can the school refuse this request?

Yesterday we talked about a federal court case and an OSEP letter about classroom observations by parents and their attorneys.  Both the case and the OSEP letter tell us that IDEA does not give parents the right to demand that they or their attorneys observe in the classroom.

However, observation by a qualified evaluator conducting an IEE should be looked at differently.  Both the court case and the OSEP letter addressed this.  In fact, in the court case, the original hearing officer ordered the district to allow the parents’ independent evaluator to conduct an observation in the classroom. The hearing officer concluded that barring a qualified evaluator from the classroom would interfere with the parents’ right to obtain an IEE.  The school did not challenge that ruling on appeal.  The case is T.M. v. District of Columbia, decided by the federal district court in Washington, D.C., on December 3, 2014.

OSEP sees it the same way.  The OSEP Letter to Savit (February 10, 2014) notes that an observation by a qualified evaluator pursuant to an IEE is not the same as an observation by a parent or attorney: “Therefore, it would be inconsistent with the IDEA for a public agency to have a policy giving third party evaluators only a two hour observation window, because such a limitation may restrict the scope of the IEE and prevent an independent evaluator from fulfilling his or her purpose, unless the LEA also limits its evaluators to a two hour observation period.”

Why the difference? Because IEEs done at public expense are supposed to be conducted under the “same criteria” that the school uses in its own evaluations of students. If the school would include a classroom observation in its evaluation, it must permit the parents to do the same in an IEE.  Likewise, OSEP says the school can limit the IEE observation to two hours only if it also limits itself to that timeframe.