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.