Parents’ Rights When Their Child’s School Refuses to Conduct an Evaluation

“Do I have any rights if our school district refuses to do an evaluation on my son with high functioning autism? And what should I do if the school determines that he is not eligible for special education?”

Parents have a legal right to request that the public school evaluate their youngster for special education services. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) gives them that right. Through local school districts, each State must “identify, locate, and evaluate every child who may have a disability requiring special education services.”

If you suspect that your son has a disability, you have a right to request a full, comprehensive, individual, multi-disciplinary evaluation. You will need to request an evaluation in writing. Be sure to send copies to the principal and the coordinator of special education. Also, retain copies of all correspondence relating to your son, and follow up with the school principal on the status of your request.

Some States will not consider your letter as sufficient permission to evaluate. As an alternative, the State may require you to sign a school district form before considering an evaluation. The date of your signature on the form is the date used to establish the evaluation time-frame.

Below is a sample letter requesting an evaluation:



Dear (name of coordinator of special education),

My son, John Doe, is having a very difficult time understanding the classroom material and completing homework. I’m requesting that he be evaluated for special education services. John is a 5th grader in Ms. Simpsons classroom at Delaware Elementary School.

I understand that the information collected during current interventions with John will be completed, and a meeting will be set up within the timeline as required by federal law. My signature on this letter gives my consent for John’s evaluation. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I’m available by phone on any weekday between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM.


Parent signature

Parent name, address, phone number


If the school district refuses to do an evaluation on your son, or if they conclude he is not eligible for special education services under IDEA, you still have other rights. You may be entitled to an independent evaluation at the school district’s expense, or you have the option to pay for an evaluation by a professional of your choice.

As part of the dispute-resolution process, you have the right to request mediation, to file for a due process hearing, or to file a complaint. When using these processes, your case is likely to be more convincing if informal methods of conflict resolution are tried first.

IDEA requires school systems to have procedures in place to assist you in resolving disputes through mediation. Mediation allows you and the school district to talk to an impartial mediator who guides the discussion and helps the parties to agree on legally binding solutions to the conflict (costs of mediation are paid for by the state education agency).

The state complaint process requires you to file a letter with the state education agency outlining the violation of Part B of IDEA. A copy of the complaint should be provided to the school district at the time the complaint is filed with the state education agency if the violation occurred in the school district.

IDEA gives you the right to challenge a school district’s decision through a due process proceeding. You may request a form from the state education agency to file an “IDEA due process complaint,” which typically has 5 steps:
  1. There may be a meeting called a “resolution session,” which provides an opportunity to discuss and resolve the problems in question. You and the school district can agree to waive the resolution session and use the mediation process as an alternative.
  2. If a resolution is reached, the parties will sign a legally binding agreement. If not, an impartial due process hearing can be arranged.
  3. The hearing process gives you the right to be represented by an attorney (which you must pay for), subpoena witnesses, present evidence, and cross examine witnesses. The “hearing officer” will make a decision on the matter.
  4. If you dispute the decision of the hearing officer, you can go to court with a civil suit.
  5. Even if your son is not eligible for special education services under IDEA, he may be protected by other laws: The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

A formal evaluation is one of the first steps in getting an High-Functioning Autistic youngster the school services he needs. The school must evaluate the youngster if it knows or suspects he has a disability, which covers many attention and learning problems. However, sometimes the school will refuse to do an evaluation. Use the steps listed above if that happens.

In summary:
  • Ask the school why it refused to evaluate.
  • Call a meeting with the school. 
  • Consider an independent educational evaluation. 
  • Contact a Parent Training and Information Center (PTI). 
  • File a due process complaint. 
  • Make sure your request was in writing. 
  • Request mediation. 
  • Talk to a lawyer or advocate. 
  • Consider filing a state complaint. 

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