Due process provides a mechanism for the resolution of conflicts between the school district and families when in disagreement regarding the proper education plan for a child. Under IDEA, you have the right to resolve disputes with your school district through due process.

When a school district denies a child a free, appropriate public education (FAPE), the parent has a right to challenge the district in a due process hearing. These challenges are related to the evaluation, classification, program and placement and/or implementation of services. A Due Process complaint is filed before the California Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) – Special Education Division. The OAH is an independent state agency that provides resolution services for individuals and government agencies that are in dispute. The OAH provides a neutral forum for fair and independent resolutions. When a parent invokes a due process hearing, an OAH impartial Administrative law Judge (ALJ) is appointed to hear each party’s position and then decide the dispute.

The hearing process is much like a trial, with each side presenting evidence and sworn testimony to the ALJ. At the conclusion of the hearing typically both sides prepare written briefs arguing the facts and the law to the ALJ, who then renders a decision. If either party disagrees with the ALJ’s decision, they can then take an appeal to the Office of State Review. When that occurs, a state level administrative review is conducted, and a decision rendered. Un-appealed decisions are binding on the parties.

There are three avenues to resolve Due Process disputes: (1) Informal Dispute Resolution (IDR) (2) Mediation (3) Due Process Hearing.

• MEDIATION:

In mediation, you and a representative of the school district meet with a neutral third party (a mediator) who tries to help you amicably reach an agreement. The mediator has no authority to impose a decision. His/her job is to help you and the school district come up with a mutually agreed upon decision to your dispute. You are not required to mediate, but it can be a very efficient tool to resolve your dispute.

• DUE PROCESS HEARING:

If you cannot reach a resolution through mediation, or if you prefer not to mediate, you can request a due process hearing. Here, you and the school district present written evidence about the disputed issue(s) and have witnesses testify before a hearing officer. If you do not agree with the outcome of the hearing, you can appeal the decision all the way to state or federal court.

Usually, disputed issues revolve around the parts of the IEP that you cannot agree upon. If the school district has violated a legal rule, such as failing to hold an IEP meeting, conduct an evaluation, assess in a timely manner, otherwise fail to meet a time limit or implement the IEP, you should file a due process complaint.

For a more detailed description of due process, visit the following link: “Guide to Understanding Special Education Due Process Hearings”