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RESOLVING DIFFERENCES OF OPINION, DISAGREEMENTS, AND DISPUTES

Parent Disagreement with an Evaluation: Request for an Independent Educational Evaluation

A parent(s) has a right to an independent educational evaluation (IEE) at public expense if the parent(s) disagrees with an AEA evaluation (i.e., an evaluation carried out or obtained by the AEA). An IEE is an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the AEA or LEA responsible for the education of the learner in question. The criteria under which the IEE is obtained, including the location of the evaluation and the qualifications of the examiner, must be the same as the criteria which the AEA uses when it initiates an evaluation.

Upon request, the AEA will provide parent(s) with information about where an independent educational evaluation may be obtained. An AEA may ask the parents’ reason why they object to the public evaluation, however, parent(s) cannot be required to provide the explanation and the AEA may not unreasonably delay a decision regarding the request.

Procedures for Implementing the Independent Evaluation

The following recommended steps will help guide the AEA/LEA staff to complete the independent educational evaluation process.

  1. Confirm that a full and individual evaluation or reevaluation has been completed and that the parent(s) disagree with the evaluation conclusions or recommendations.
  2. Discuss the request with the AEA Special Education Director or designee.
  3. Work with the IEP team to complete and submit the Independent Educational Evaluation Request Form to the AEA Special Education Director (or designee) for approval and signature.
  4. Provide the IEP team and parent(s) with a copy of the completed form.
  5. If necessary, obtain parental consent for the release/exchange of information with outside agencies.
  6. Arrange for the evaluation to be completed. Typically, this might be done by the AEA Special Education Director (or designee) in consultation with the IEP team.
  7. Following the completion of the IEE:
    1. The IEP team will reconvene to review the results and to develop an IEP.
    2. The AEA will reimburse the parent(s) for their expenses associated with the evaluation (e.g. travel, meals, lodging, etc.) consistent with AEA policies and procedures related to reimbursements.
    3. The AEA will reimburse the agency or professional who conducted the independent educational evaluation following the receipt of the evaluation report to the AEA.

Additional information on Independent Education Evaluations is available online on the Iowa Department of Education website - Independent Educational Evaluation FAQ (this document answers many common questions about independent educational evaluations for children under the IDEA).

Disputes: Right to Mediation, Due Process Complaint or State Complaint

If a parent disagrees with an IEP team decision, including eligibility or placement decisions, IDEA and Iowa law provide the following dispute resolution options to address disagreements:

  • Mediation - may be used to resolve disputes involving any matter under IDEA. 
  • Due Process Complaint - may be filed by the parent or public agency relating to the identification, evaluation or educational placement of a child with a disability, or the provision of FAPE to the child.
  • State Complaint - may be filed by any individual or organization upon an allegation that a public agency has violated Part B of IDEA.

Parents receive information on these options, at least annually, in the Procedural Safeguards Manual, and they are also summarized in the Dispute Resolution Process Comparison Chart

Processes for Resolving Disagreements

The following processes have been established to aid parents, local school districts, and area education agencies (AEAs) resolve special education related disputes.

AEA Mediation (formerly “Resolution Facilitator Process”)

This voluntary process uses an AEA staff member trained in mediation to help resolve issues impartially and at the earliest level. Each AEA has at least one designated person who serves as a mediator. This process may be requested when disagreements arise between school officials and parents over educational issues. Additional information is available through your local AEA.

Mediation

This is a voluntary process designed to help parties identify mutually agreeable solutions with the assistance of a qualified and impartial mediator assigned by the Iowa Department of Education. Mediation (formerly referred to as a “pre-appeal”) may be requested at any time, regardless of whether the parties have initiated other dispute resolution processes or not. This process is often very successful in resolving disputes. When the parties reach an agreement, a legally binding agreement is written and signed by the parties. This agreement is enforceable in any state court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States.

Due Process Complaint (also known as “Request for Due Process Hearing”)

A due process complaint is a formal complaint regarding the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or provision of a free appropriate public education. A due process complaint may be filed by the parent, school, or agency involved in the child’s education. Attorneys are typically involved in this process. An administrative law judge is assigned by the Iowa Department of Education and is in charge of the due process hearing. A resolution meeting or mediation is required to take place before the hearing occurs, unless both parties agree otherwise in writing. A due process hearing most closely resembles going to court. During the hearing, both sides present their case. Upon hearing both sides and reviewing the submitted information, the administrative law judge will issue a decision. If a party disagrees with the decision, they may appeal it to state or federal district court; otherwise, the decision is final.

State Complaint

A state complaint (sometimes referred to as “Formal Written Complaint”) is different than the other previously mentioned processes. In this process, any individual or organization who believes a public agency has violated a requirement of the IDEA may file a signed complaint with the Iowa Department of Education. This complaint must be submitted in writing and must include a description of the problem, as well as a proposed resolution to the problem. The state will then carry out an independent investigation and issue a finding within 60 calendar days of receiving the complaint. If the agency is determined to be in violation of the law, the agency will be required to develop and implement a corrective action plan that must be completed within one year.

NOTE: Forms for requesting a Mediation, filing a Due Process Complaint, or filing a State Complaint can be found in the back of the Procedural Safeguards Manual for Parents and on the Iowa Department of Education’s Dispute Resolution web page.

Dispute Resolution Resources

For more information on Dispute Resolution options, visit the Department of Education's website to view a Dispute Resolution Process Comparison Chart and the Dispute Resolution Summary, or access the Procedural Safeguards Manual for Parents.