Due Process Under the IDEA

When disputes arise between parents and school districts regarding the special education needs of a child with a disability, the parties can avail themselves of their Due Process rights. Parents and school districts have the right to be represented by an attorney throughout this process. Due Process rights include both parties right to file a Complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings. The filing of a Complaint allows for three possible avenues to resolve the conflict. Parents and districts may elect to participate in the voluntary process of a Resolution Session, or they may choose to forgo this option in favor of the legal remedies of Mediation and a Due Process Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.

Resolution Session

Subsequent to the filing of a Complaint the parties will have an opportunity to come together, sans a mediator or law judge, for the purpose of attempting to resolve their differences. This juncture offers the parties an opportunity to review the Complaint and come a reasonable resolution using various options including agreeing to; increase or alter services, provide compensatory education and ascertain if additional educational assessments are necessary.

Mediation

If the parties decide to forgo the Resolution session option, or the session does not yield an agreeable compromise, the parties will proceed to Mediation. The process of Mediation allows for an administrative law judge to be present to assist the parties in finding common ground that will result in a settlement agreement. At mediation the issues raised in the Complaint will be reviewed and discussed and various areas of compromise will be suggested. The Administrative Law Judge will work simultaneously and separately with both parties in an effort to help the parties resolve their differences. In the event that the issues are settled a formal settlement agreement will be entered into, binding the parties to their agreed upon concessions and responsibilities.

Due Process Hearing

If the parties are not successful in either the Resolution session or Mediation, the process of a Hearing will commence. The following steps are the standard means of getting the parties ready to appear before an Administrative Law Judge.

• Preparation of documents for litigation

• Participation at a Pre-Hearing Conference for the purpose of defining and limiting the issues that will be presented

• Identification of witnesses for both parties

• Trial

At the conclusion of a Hearing, the parties can elect for a period of time in which to file their closing statements. Subsequent thereto, the Administrative Law Judge will issue a decision on all of the issues presented. If either party is not satisfied with the findings of the Administrative Law Judge, the law allows for appeal to be taken to the designated Federal Court of their jurisdiction.