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Attorneys Ryan Driscoll and Christine Sullivan Win Important Decision For Trumbull Board of Education in United States District Court

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a landmark federal statute that protects the rights of children with disabilities to receive a free and appropriate public education. One of the keys to ensuring that a public school district provides an appropriate education is the proper evaluation of the impact of the child’s disability on his/her education. The IDEA requires schools to conduct a range of comprehensive and periodic evaluations for each child who has been identified as having a disability. However, parents don’t always agree with the results of evaluations that a school may conduct. When this happens, the IDEA allows parents, under certain circumstances, to request that the school pay for an “independent educational evaluation” (an “IEE”) with a properly qualified expert not employed by the district.

The parents in this case disagreed with one specific evaluation conducted by the Trumbull Public School District and then requested public funding of seven IEEs. The parents took the position that once any evaluation of their child occurred, the school district, upon request by the parents, was required to pay for any IEE requested regardless of the scope of the original evaluation. If the parents had been successful in their argument, school districts could have been exposed to requests for IEEs which would have required a district to fund all-encompassing, wide-ranging and perhaps unnecessary IEE’s at public expense.

Judge Jeffrey Alker Meyer of the United States District Court, writing one of the only (if not the only) opinions on this issue nationwide agreed with the Trumbull Public School District (Trumbull Board of Education). He determined that a parents’ disagreement with a limited assessment does not entitle the parent to ask that the school district pay for a wide-ranging, all-encompassing IEE. The Court also found that a parent who seeks the benefit of a publicly funded IEE must affirmatively disagree with the school district’s evaluation within two years of the date of that evaluation.

The matter is currently on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.