OLR Research Report

January 8, 2007




By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst

You asked what rights parents of a child with possible dyslexia or another problem that affects his ability to read have to require the school district where the child attends school to evaluate the child and pay for the evaluation. You also asked if a school district could refuse to evaluate the child on the grounds that it has no money budgeted to pay for an evaluation.

A child with suspected dyslexia or some other learning disability may require special education and related services if (1) the disability adversely affects his educational performance and (2) he needs a specially designed instructional program to address his unique educational needs. The first step in determining whether this is the case is for a parent, school personnel, or other appropriate person (such as a physician or social worker) to refer the child for special education. A referral is a written request that the school district where the child attends school evaluate whether he is eligible for and needs special education.

When it receives the referral, the district must convene a planning and placement team (PPT) to review the referral and determine whether the child requires special education or needs to be evaluated further. Parents have a right to notice of PPT meetings and a right to participate in them. The PPT's evaluation of the child must be comprehensive enough to determine all his special education and related service needs. The school system must pay for an evaluation requested by the PPT.

A parent who disagrees with the results of the PPT's evaluation can ask for an independent educational evaluation (IEE) of their child by someone who does not work for the school district. The school system must either pay for the IEE or prove to a state special education due process hearing officer in an appeal that its own evaluation is appropriate. A school district may not refuse to evaluate a child or pay for an IEE because of insufficient funds. A school district must give a list of qualified independent evaluators to parents who request an IEE for their child.

If the state hearing officer finds the district's evaluation is appropriate, parents may still obtain an IEE for their child at their own expense and submit the findings and recommendations to the PPT. Regardless of who pays for an IEE, the PPT is required only to consider the IEE's results. It need not implement them. A parent who objects to the PPT's decisions may appeal through the state special education hearing process and, if still dissatisfied, to the courts.

For your further information, I am enclosing two State Department of Education publications that discuss special education evaluation requirements and parents' due process rights more fully. A Parent's Guide to Special Education in Connecticut describes the special education referral process on pp. 2 & 3 and the evaluation requirements on pp. 6 & 7. Steps to Protect a Child's Right to Special Education: Procedural Safeguards enumerates parents' special education notice and appeal rights. Specific questions that these brochures do not cover can be addressed to the State Department of Education's Bureau of Special Education, (860) 713-6910.