Children’s Law Center submitted comments to the Office of the State Superintendent on Education on proposed changes DC’s regulations on special education dispute resolution. Read a summary below or download the full comments (PDF).
The proposed regulations build on many positive improvements, and should make the process smoother, with new requirements for pre-hearing conferences, new subpoena power, and new sanctions for parties who do not cooperate with the process. The regulations also allow electronic filing and clarify the rules of evidence in due process hearings. However, the comments note, there are still concerns that “the due process hearing system continues to put parents at a significant disadvantage when it comes to access to information.”
Parents have trouble obtaining and understanding information about their childrens’ progress in school when it comes in legal documents like Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Many parents are not allowed to observe their children firsthand in school, which puts them further at a disadvantage. And yet parents bear the burden of proof when arguing that the school system is not meeting a child’s needs. Children’s Law Center recommends three amendements to the proposed regulations: (1) allow parents who prevail at the due process hearing to recover expert fees so they are more likely to seek expert help in the process, (2) give hearing officers the authority to order that parents and their designees be allowed to observe children in current and proposed placements, and (3) shift the burden of proof to the school system.