Why Due Process is Important for Parents to Know


As a parent of a child who receives special education services, or a professional who provides those services, you are likely aware of the sometimes unpleasant aspect of special education, specifically dispute resolution through something known as due process. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requires due process to handle any disputes that arise in order to meet all the requirements defined for students to receive suitable special education services.

The IDEA, briefly, ensures that children with special needs receive all the services they need to enable them to have what is known as a free appropriate public education similar to what their peers without special needs receive. The IDEA defines what is involved in providing those special education services, such as:

  • How to teach children with special needs in the most beneficial way.
  • Guidelines for the children’s participation, performance, and assessment.
  • Guidelines to follow if you as a parent have a complaint and want to dispute some aspect of your child’s education that may not accurately follow stipulations defined by the IDEA.

This dispute resolution takes place under a procedure known as due process. In other words, you may choose one of five timely dispute resolution methods:

  • Written State complaints
  • Mediation
  • Due process complaints
  • Resolution meetings
  • Due process hearings

Daniel Domenech, the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), stated that the due process system has not done what it was designed to do–improve academic outcomes for students with disabilities–and instead has caused conflicts between parents and educators.

The AASA wants to address these problems to better meet the needs of you as parents and your children with disabilities. The primary proposals by the AASA are the following:

  • Parents may use the services of a trained facilitator who is approved by the state to help create an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for each child.
  • Parents may use the services of a special-education consultant who is responsible for recommending an educational plan for the district to follow when parents and the school district cannot reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.
  • In the event that neither the parents nor the the school district reach a mutually satisfactory agreement, either party may file a lawsuit in federal court.

While one major emphasis of changes to the due process system focuses on reducing the number of cases brought to litigation and litigation costs, Domenech emphasized “We have to do better — for the students’ sake.”

Image via Irene Vasey