Education Groups Urge Court to Protect the Interests of Children with Disabilities

June 9, 2015

Alexandria, Va. (June 9, 2015) - The National School Boards Association (NSBA), joined by the Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA), the Mississippi School Boards Association (MSBA), the Texas Association of School Boards’ (TASB) Legal Assistance Fund, and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), filed a “friend of the court” (amicus) brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (LA, MS, TX) in support of the school district in Seth B. v. Orleans Parish School District. The case concerns whether parents of a child with disabilities may obtain at public expense a private Independent Education Evaluation (IEE) of their child that doesn’t meet the criteria for special education evaluations established by the state education agency.

The case arose when the parents of a child with autism and suspected learning disabilities requested an IEE, a right provided under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to parents who disagree with the school district’s evaluation of their child’s special education needs. The Orleans Parish School District informed the parents that the IEE must meet the standards for special education evaluations established by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), along with cost limitations for the proposed evaluation. Because the completed evaluation failed to meet BESE criteria, the school district denied reimbursement for the IEE. Though a district court ruled in favor of the school district, the parents appealed to the Fifth Circuit.

In their joint brief, NSBA, LSBA, MSBA, TASB, and NASDSE (hereafter, the amici) argued that the Fifth Circuit’s ruling should impose reasonable limits on school districts’ responsibility to pay for special education evaluations by requiring that IEEs meet state criteria as a prerequisite for reimbursement of costs.  This requirement ensures that IEEs actually serve the interests of children with disabilities by providing valid and accurate information that assists in the development of an educational program tailored to their individualized needs.

“We must establish policy that is fiscally and educationally sound and serves the best interests of students, families, and communities,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association. “Saddling school districts with the costs of private assessments that fail to or only marginally address the educational needs of a child with disabilities results in a significant waste of limited public funds.”

The amici call upon the Fifth Circuit to read existing federal regulations on IEEs in a manner that does not permit parents “broad license … to contest every criterion that they assert limits their personal preferences in obtaining an IEE,” but rather that the Court ensure that publicly-funded IEEs meet professional standards of quality, comprehensiveness, and consistency to ensure their validity and reliability.

“The Fifth Circuit ruling is crucial to put a stop to public policy that is not fiscally sound and often gives parents a misguided understanding of their child’s educational needs,” said Francisco M. Negrόn, Jr., Associate Executive Director and General Counsel, NSBA. “For an IEE to play a useful role in identifying students’ unique educational needs, it must meet the criteria the school district applies to its own evaluations.”                    


The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. Learn more at

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