The Schoolyard Lawyer: Parents’ Right to an Independent Evaluation


Every time a school district conducts an evaluation of a child, the parents have the right to an independent evaluation. An independent evaluation is an evaluation done on the child outside of the school district. It gives the parents the opportunity to research credible doctors and evaluators who can conduct an evaluation and offer an opinion “independent” of the school district.

When parents disagree with the results of the school’s evaluation, the parents may be entitled to an independent evaluation at the school district’s expense. Although school districts may be obligated to pay for the independent evaluation, every state, including Massachusetts, puts a cap on the amount the school district must pay for the evaluation. Because evaluations are expensive and the rates are normally more than that established by the state, the parents usually pay the difference.

If the school district continues to support their own evaluation and does not see the need for an independent evaluation, the school district can challenge it by going to hearing. This, however, will cost more than paying for the evaluation, so often school districts go through with the independent evaluation.

Parents are not obligated to inform the school that they want an independent evaluation, nor are they even obligated to say why they disagree with the evaluation done by the school. Instead, if a parent disagrees with their child’s evaluation, they can get an independent evaluation and seek payment from the school district after the evaluation is complete. However, school districts are only obligated to pay for the portions of the independent evaluation that they tested in their own evaluations. This is known as the “mirror image rule.” Therefore, if parents want testing done outside of what the school district did, they cannot seek reimbursement for that portion of the evaluation.

If you are concerned about your child’s evaluation and want to learn more about your right to an independent evaluation, please let us know.