What is Due Process in Education?

what is due process in education

Parents may disagree with decisions made by the school as it relates to an individualized education program, or IEP. Actually, parents have a right to disagree which is protected by the  Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. If you’re child is age 3 – 22, attends public school, and possesses one of 13 disabilities as outlined by law; you are entitled to specialized education services through your school district. When disagreements arise regarding those services, parents may need to grapple with the question – what is due process in education?

The Nature of Conflicts

When a child is evaluated and shown to have one of the 13 recognized disabilities outlined in the IDEA regulations, the best approach to developing an individualized education plan is subjective. While all parties more than likely proceed with the child’s best interest in mind, achieving the desired results can be a matter of opinion. As the child’s advocate, parents may disagree with a number of areas including:

  • Labeling your child as one with a disability
  • The outcome of the child’s evaluation
  • Suggested educational placement options
  • Special education and/or school provided services related to the child’s disability

All of these items should be spelled out in detail in the IEP. Before a school can implement any plan, parents must give consent by endorsing the plan. However, if there are areas of the plan that the parent disagrees with, moving to a process of conflict resolution is the next step.

what is due process in education

Options for Parents Who Disagree with the Proposed IEP

The best conflict resolution strategy is to avoid the conflict altogether. Working with your child’s school officials to iron out areas of disagreement will be the most expedient and cost effective way to address your concerns. Maintaining open lines of communication that are respectful and focused on the intended goals can help keep the tension under control and all parties working toward a shared goal.

However, if you’ve tried to resolve conflicts directly and still are not satisfied with the results, then entering a formal conflict resolution process is the next step. Initially, parents should request a formal parent-teacher conference to address outstanding concerns. If this process is unsuccessful, the next step would be to request a formal IEP meeting. Finally, IEP mediation would be the next step if meeting with the teacher and IEP team don’t lead to satisfactory results.

What is Due Process in Education

The IDEA act requires all states to provide parents with resolution options through a State Department of Education, Exceptional Children Division.  This department will be the first place parents can turn if they have unsuccessfully tried to advocate for their child’s position through the school.

Conflicts can be resolved in one of two ways, through formal mediation or a due process hearing. Mediation must be agreed to by both parties. A trained, third-party professional will work to find a solution that satisfies both parties.

If mediation fails, a due process hearing is the next option. A due process hearing is not a trial, however parents who opt for this plan of action would be best served by hiring legal representation. The special education law is complex and changing constantly. A special education attorney can help you prepare and understand how the laws are established to best serve your family. Additionally, a school district will have highly trained lawyers to represent their side. Hiring a special education attorney would be a smart move to ensure a level playing field.

This process can be slow and expensive. Working with a special education attorney from the minute a conflict arises can help parents understand their rights and make the best decisions for their child. While this process can be time consuming, advocating for your child is the most important job. Your child’s educational experience will set the foundation for the rest of their life.

When Do You Need a Special Education Lawyer?

special education lawyer

Facing the challenge of developing an individualized education program , or IEP, for your child with special needs can be a daunting task. The process is generally collaborative, marked by a mutual interest in achieving the best results for your child. If you feel competent to represent your child’s interest and find the interaction with the school agreeable, proceed and work through the IEP process as needed. However, a special education lawyer may be necessary to ensure that your child receives access to all resources mandated by law.

A special education lawyer can be of assistance in one of two ways. A lawyer can assist in the background as a source of counsel during the IEP development process. In this case, you will handle the majority of the work and attend all related meetings as your child’s representative. Additionally, a special education lawyer can represent your child formally as a direct representative.

Let’s take a look at why you might need a special education lawyer and in what capacity.

special education lawyer

Assistance and Advice From a Special Education Lawyer

The IEP meetings should include the school’s special education teacher, a district administrator, a general education teacher, and a representative to interpret the data. These meetings should commence no more than 30 days after the child’s evaluation.

The IEPs are extremely long documents that contain very detailed information about your specific child’s recommended course of action, and they should be reviewed annually. A special education lawyer can help you review and understand this document from a perspective that has your child’s best interest at heart.

Once you sign the IEP document, you have given your consent on behalf of your child. An attorney who specializes in special education law can help you understand what your rights are before you sign.

Additionally, a special education lawyer can help you and your child prepare for the eligibility meeting. If you are unhappy with the results of the evaluation, you can have your child retested. An attorney can help you with this process.

Depending on your confidence in your ability to advocate most effectively for your child, you might want to seek legal assistance. The legal team for the school district is well versed in the special education law. Having an expert to represent you in these proceedings only levels the playing field.

special education lawyer

Formal Representation

If your child’s case contains any level of complexity or you’ve worked in good faith with the school and aren’t satisfied with the results, hiring a special education lawyer to advocate on your behalf is an option.

Attorneys can attend the IEP meeting with or for you. If you have a dispute with the school, administration, or school district, an attorney can represent you at any hearings and ensure your legal rights are covered. Generally speaking, the special education regulations are complex and change constantly. Given that this process can move slowly, a specialized lawyer can help speed it up.

While this step may be costly, a reputable attorney can look at your case and help you understand whether it warrants legal representation. You can also compare their rates against your budget. Keep in mind, the quality of your child’s education is one of the key factors that can determine their path in life. You’ll want to ensure that the school provides quality services in the best environment. In the case that your IEP development process becomes adversarial and you don’t feel the school is cooperating in good faith, a special education lawyer will understand how to apply the law effectively to achieve the desired outcomes.

You may also just need an attorney to help you understand the feedback provided in the IEP meetings. Instead of feeling outnumbered, a lawyer advocating on your side can help you assess all the information provided and make the best decision for your child’s academic future.