It’s a good thing when parents are actively engaged in the child’s education. When parents explore their child‘s strengths and weaknesses by obtaining outside evaluations and then share that information with the school it can make for a collaborative relationship that fosters student success. But the lesson of a Circuit Court decision from last year is that schools should not become dependent on the parent providing information. Our responsibility as educators is to be PROACTIVE in seeking out the information we need.
This came up in a case from the District of Columbia. The Circuit Court ultimately concluded that the district failed to provide the child with a FAPE by being too passive:
…the district court emphasized the school’s responsiveness. The IDEA does, to be sure, require schools to respond meaningfully to parents’ reasonable requests. But merely reacting when parents complain is not enough. A school has an affirmative obligation to “conduct a full and individual initial evaluation” of an eligible student “before” it begins providing services. If it considers only whatever information parents pass along, a school may miss what reasonable evaluation would uncover and, as a result, offer an inadequate education.
This is a case where the court noted that the Supreme Court’s decision about FAPE in 2017 (Endrew F. v. Douglas County) had “raised the bar” for schools serving students with disabilities. It’s a strong message that our “Child Find” responsibilities are active, not passive. In a state that has been found to have grossly violated Child Find duties, this is a message we should take to heart.
The case is Z.B. v. District of Columbia, decided by the Circuit Court for the D.C. Circuit on May 1, 2018. We found it at 888 F.3d 515 and at 72 IDELR 27.
DAWG BONE: IF YOU THINK THE CHILD MAY HAVE A DISABILITY DO YOUR OWN EVALUATION. DON’T RELY EXCLUSIVELY ON OUTSIDE EVALS.