A Hearing Officer’s Order to fix an Inappropriate Reevaluation Report Violates the Law with Regard to Independent Educational Evaluations

When a school district fails to provide a student with an appropriate evaluation, a due process hearing officer cannot simply order the district to go back and make it appropriate. Rather, under these circumstances, the parent is entitled to obtain an independent educational evaluation at public (school district) expense.

In M.Z. v. Bethlehem Area School District, the school district issued a Reevaluation Report, and relying upon the results of that reevaluation, the district exited the student from special education. The parent requested a publicly funded independent educational evaluation, but instead of agreeing to the request, the district took the case to a special education due process hearing to attempt to prove that its Reevaluation Report was appropriate. Following a hearing on the issue, a special education due process hearing officer ordered the school district to take its “incomplete” and “partially outdated” re-evaluation and add additional observations and input, but denied the parent’s request for a publicly funded independent educational evaluation. The parent appealed the hearing officer’s decision.

Eastern District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez reversed the hearing officer’s decision and awarded the parent a school district funded independent educational evaluation. The Court concluded that the law requires a publicly funded independent educational evaluation whenever an Evaluation Report or Reevaluation Report is inappropriate.