We’re here because Kevin, in the last week, has been declining, and Mrs. White, here, has asked for this special education IEP meeting. Mrs. White, although I don’t know him personally, I have spoken to the team, and we’re really surprised that you’ve asked for this special meeting– especially when he’s doing so great in class. Prior to the most recent issues, I don’t think anyone, including us, thought he would need special education services. This is prompted by our recent concerns, and I’ve written them down because there have been so many. You should know that education is not just all about academics or grades. In fact, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act has 13 categories of disability.

Emotional disturbance is one of them. So, as you know, Kevin has had a really tough time this year. Last year he was– we thought it was tough, but we chalked it up to the transition to high school. I mean, I do see a few failing grades, but also a few Cs.

I mean he’s not failing everything. I also– when I looked at his statewide assessments, he’s advance academically. If you suspect that your child might have an emotional disturbance, you should prepare yourself for the fact that the school is likely to bring up things like grades and academics as evidence that the child may not require special education. However, the federal special education laws require that a special ed program include things like functional and adaptive skills, as well as to consider the behavior of the child.

And as you’re about to learn, this student– his behavior is significantly impacting his education. Everyone knows he’s smart. In fact, he’s gifted. That’s not why we’re here.

We all agree that he’s bright– very bright. That’s why we’re so surprised that you’re asking us to consider if he needs to be evaluated for special education. Many students who receive special education services are, in fact, gifted. There’s nothing in the IDEA that says intelligence is a sole factor when determining the need for special education services. Did you know that he’s been so unsuccessful at school that we informally agreed to an abbreviated day last week?

I recently learned that from the team. I’d like to hear from the building administrator, is he suspended a lot? Yes, he’s in the office quite a bit. He seems very unhappy lately, and then at some times he’s very angry.

But there are other days where he’s really very charming. It kind of depends on the day. Like most teenagers. I don’t think anything about Kevin’s behavior is typical of most teenagers.

In fact, did you know his therapist suggests that he might have bipolar disorder? I actually like Kevin, and I do try cut him some slack on those days where we can tell he’s just a little off. We do see him struggling, and that’s why we suggested the abbreviated day. Far too often we hear of a school district’s response to a student who’s struggling in school, especially with their behavior, that they limit the child’s attendance in some way– either having the child start the day later, or end the day earlier, or both.

Really, this is not an appropriate intervention. If a child’s behavior is impacting them– their performance in school– so much that they have to leave school, then really we should be looking at another intervention. Before we go down the road of testing, why don’t we see how the abbreviated day works?

I brought a letter, that I received from his therapist this morning, recommending evaluation. Here’s a tip. If you and your child already have a professional relationship with a therapist or psychiatrist, it’s always a great idea to ask that person to put something in writing that recommends what they think your child needs. We can’t possibly respond to something that we’re just now seeing. But it’s only one paragraph.

We’re just seeing it, though. Not only does an IEP team that is considering whether or not a child is eligible for special education services have to include the parent, but that team must, by federal law, consider information and evaluations that the parent shares with the team. I was told you have to consider outside recommendations. Am I wrong? No.

Let me just get a minute to read it. OK, Kevin’s therapist, Ms. Garcia Jones, I haven’t heard of her before. She is suggesting an evaluation.

And I’m requesting one also. Let me ask the team. Do you think Kevin needs an evaluation for special education? In my class, when he’s there, he’s a solid student. I mean he’s only failing because of missed assignments or failing to turn in work. But when he does turn in the work, it’s excellent.

He’s a very smart kid– above his peers in many ways, actually. So, no. I don’t think he needs to be considered for special ed. Just make sure that somebody on the team documents the fact that they’ve denied your request for that initial evaluation. I’m requesting that you evaluate Kevin for special education. Are you denying that request?

Well I’m not hearing the team say that they think he needs it. So are we going to decide today to have the abbreviated day, and you’re denying my request for the evaluation and his therapist’s recommendation? Well I guess we could do some testing.

You’re the special education teacher– are there any tests that you recommend on Kevin? Well, that’s a tough question. As you said, he performed very well on the state tests. I guess I could do an IQ test and some achievement testing. The evaluation procedures, outlined by the federal regulations, specifically state that a student shall be evaluated in all suspected areas of disability, including social and emotional status.

For students who are suspected of having an emotional disturbance, be very cautious and careful that the school district is, in fact, doing tests and conducting the evaluation that will answer the question– does this child have an emotional disability? Which of those will tell us if he has bipolar disorder? Well, neither of them will. But these are our standard tests.

I guess I could also do a behavior rating scale. Will those tests for bipolar? They will give us a profile of his behavior, yes. But I thought a psychologist or a psychiatrist had to do the evaluation for bipolar. But that would require an outside evaluation, and that’s just something only Central Office can approve.

In fact, for an IEP team meeting to be a duly constituted meeting, there must be a representative from the school district who’s not only knowledgeable about the resources that the school district has, but is also able to commit those resources. Well had I known that, I would have requested someone from Central Office to be here. Can you call and ask? Well, why don’t we get started with our own testing, and go from there? Well, I guess my biggest concern is that his therapist thinks he has a disability. I’m sorry, but with those states scores, there’s no way he has a learning disability.

Let’s be cautious here. This student is suspected of having an emotional disturbance– not a specific learning disability. Very often parents and school districts can get confused and go down the road of assessing, whether or not a student has a specific learning disability, which is a very common disability, rather than assessing whether the student has an emotional disturbance.

Be very careful that the team is actually answering the question of whether this student has an emotional disturbance as defined by the IDEA. I think she said something about an emotional disability. I’ll tell you what. I’ll speak to our special ed director and let you know we says about a psychological eval. But my guess is that he’ll want to start with our own testing. Technically, it’s the obligation of the school district to do the initial evaluation and to evaluate in all suspected areas of disability.

Sometimes, if those resources aren’t available within the school district, the school district can, in fact, retain somebody outside of the district to do that. It’s still considered their initial evaluation. And they still must evaluate in all suspected areas of disability. Give me a moment. I’m going to call over the Central Office, OK? Excuse me.

OK, so you know we don’t have a psychiatrist on staff. But we have agreed to a psychiatric evaluation by someone that we use often. We just need your consent. OK. John, will you get me a consent form, please, in that folder? It should be a green one, I believe. The IDEA requires that the school district have your informed consent to evaluate your child.

Let’s make the distinction here. You’re not giving your informed consent to receive special education services. That only happens if your child is actually found eligible. If your child is found eligible after the evaluation, you’ll have to give your informed consent for that as well.

So can I submit some questions that I’d like the psychiatrist to answer? As long as it’s educationally relevant. Well, the psychiatrist will meet with you to discuss your son, anyway. Great. Can we set up the team’s next meeting now? Well we don’t know exactly how long it’ll take.

So let us call you and set up a meeting once the testing is done. The IDEA says that once a parent has given their consent for an evaluation, the school district has to complete that evaluation within 60 calendar days. Here’s where it gets tricky.

This is one of those areas where the federal law does allow states to come up with their own timelines. So if your state has a different timeline, it may be 60 days, it may be a different timeline, and you should check with your State Department of Education.