Legal Memorandum: IEP Evaluation for a Classified Student

Issue: Whether school districts may create and implement an IEP for any classified student.

Area of Law: Constitutional Law, Education Law
Keywords: School district's obligation; Appropriateness of an IEP
Jurisdiction: Federal, New Jersey
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 12/01/2011

Under New Jersey and federal law, it goes without saying that a school district is legally obligated to provide a free, appropriate public education to all classified students living within the district.  To do so, the district must evaluate each student to determine his or her individualized needs and develop an individualized education program to meet those individualized needs.  The IEP must contain, among other things, a statement of the student’s present levels of educational performance, a statement of his or her annual educational goals, and an objective method for evaluating and assessing the student’s progress toward those goals.

Importantly, school districts are not free to unilaterally create and implement an IEP for any classified student.  Rather, the law establishes that the student’s parents are afforded a meaningful opportunity to participate in the process in order to ensure that their child receives special education and related services under an appropriate program in an appropriate setting.  The United States Supreme Court has reinforced the importance of parental participation in the IEP process:

Envisioning the IEP as the centerpiece of the [IDEA’s] education delivery system for disabled children, and aware that schools had all too often denied such children appropriate educations without in any way consulting their parents, Congress repeatedly emphasized throughout the Act the importance and indeed the necessity of parental participation in both the development of the IEP and any subsequent assessments of its effectiveness.  […]

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