We are trying to get a student tested to determine eligibility for special education and the parent wants to sit in on the testing. Do we have to allow that?

The parent of a student in California asked to sit in and observe when the school conducted some testing of a student with a disability in connection with the three-year re-evaluation.  The school balked, citing concerns that the parent’s presence in the room would skew the evaluation.

So the mother asked for a one-way mirror enabling her to observe and listen, without actually being in the same room.  The school was OK with half of that request—it agreed to set up a way for the parent to see the evaluation, but not listen in.  Both parties dug in at this point. The parent never produced the child for the evaluation, and thus, it did not get done.

The parties ended up in litigation with the parent claiming that the school denied FAPE to the child by failing to conduct a thorough evaluation.  The school’s position was: how could we evaluate the child when the parent is placing unreasonable conditions on us?

The hearing officer and the federal court sided with the district on this one.  Key Quote:

The court finds that parents’ condition that they be allowed to see and hear the assessment was unreasonable, and they effectively withdrew their consent by insisting on that condition.  The [hearing officer] accurately concluded that the District’s failure to complete the required assessments was caused by Parents’ interference and denial of consent, and that the request to observe the assessment amounted to the imposition of improper conditions or restrictions on the assessments, which the District had no obligation to accept or accommodate.

It’s important to point out that the district refused the parents’ request not out of stubbornness or an attitude of “we’ve never done that before.” The district cited legitimate concerns about test integrity and security.  The district took a stance because it is the district’s responsibility to make sure that evaluation data is gathered properly. All decisions about IEP content and placement of the student must be based on evaluation data. Therefore, evaluation data must be valid and reliable.

The case is Student R.A. v. West Contra Costa Unified School District, decided by the federal district court for the Northern District of California on August 17, 2015. We found it at 66 IDELR 36.