School Administrators Propose Change to Due Process System: Interesting IDEA?

To educateRecently the American Association of School Administrators proposed a drastic change in the system known as “Due Process Hearings”. The change suggested would follow a model already underway on a voluntary basis in Massachusetts and would involve a “consultant IEP” drafted by an impartial person familiar with special education. The consultant is paid by the state and neither party would be obligated to follow the recommendations. Under this proposed model, neither parents not district would relinquish their right to a due process hearing but would agree to first try to follow the consultant IEP for a certain period of time before proceeding to a  hearing.

As an attorney who represents only parents, this model has some appeal. The costs associated with due process are very high and out of reach for most families using a private attorney. The costs to the school are also substantial and this model would keep increasingly scarce dollars from lawyers and be used for student services. This would potentially offer a solution that each side can live with. By the time parents are at the point of due process, there is often a high level of conflict between the family and the district. Ideally, the addition of a neutral person who functions in a more direct way than a mediator would assist in reducing conflict and getting buy in from both sides. Presumably,this consultant would be neutral. Depending on their credentials, I anticipate that parents would be cynical about a “school person’s” preexisting bias.

An alternative to the existing inefficient, costly and largely school biased due process system is worth considering. However, the problem is not that the due process system is broken but that the larger special education system fails many children and fails to prepare them for life after school.

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About Micki Moran

Micki Moran is the founding partner of The Child and Family Law Center, Ltd. She dedicates her practice to providing legal assistance to children and families who are in need of representation in the areas of special education, disability law, juvenile and young adult criminal law, abuse and neglect, guardianship, and mental health issues. Micki's practice is founded on the principle that children and their families require and deserve excellent legal representation with a multidisciplinary approach that works with multiple systems of care and creates communities that support and improve the quality of all peoples' lives.
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