What Happens When a Special Education Disagreement Goes to Due Process?

What should you try first, before Due Process?

The quickest and easiest ways to solve IEP conflicts will start with your IEP team. Please click here for several methods that may be helpful to solve IEP challenges, from talking with your IEP team, all the way to ADR. 

How to request Due Process?

Parents, caregivers, or students can request due process and mediation on behalf of the student. The school district can also request due process on behalf of the school district. Here are the forms to request due process on behalf of the student in some common languages. source 

The burden of proof is greater for the party who requests due process. The burden of proof refers to which party must produce enough evidence to prove their case. For example, if parents have filed the due process request, then parents have the burden of proof. For more explanation of this, please call OAH at (916) 263-0880.

Who handles Due Process cases?

The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) is a neutral state agency that helps solve disagreements between individuals and government agencies, including disagreements about Special Education. The Special Education Division of OAH handles mediations, pre-hearing conferences and due process hearings that involve issues related to Special Education under the IDEA. Their mission statement is “Our mission is to provide a neutral forum for fair and independent resolution of administrative matters, ensuring due process and respecting the dignity of all. “

Help in understanding the process

The OAH offers these Self-Help pages, also referred to as The Handbook, to provide information on Special Education laws and procedures and links to related forms. The purpose of the Self-help pages is to help parties better understand due process hearings and mediations, and to help prepare the documents needed for each step in the process.

Can you go to Due Process without a lawyer?

Yes, but you should seriously consider having legal representation. Due Process and Mediation are both intense and complex.  Please read (6.55) Must I be represented by an attorney in order to go through due process? from the Special Ed Rights and Responsibilities Manual for more information to help you make this decision. You should know that the OAH maintains a list of free and low-cost special education attorneys and advocates.

Where can I find the OAH list of low-cost attorneys and advocates?

OAH maintains a list of attorneys and advocates who have self-certified that they provide low-cost or free services to assist in preparation for a Special Education case before OAH. Click here to see their list of low-cost special education attorneys and advocates.

Can you see how OAH has ruled on past Special Education disputes?

Yes, you can! Looking at rulings on other cases can be a helpful way to build your understanding of how the court interprets Special Education Law in various scenarios. Please click Search Special Education Decisions and Orders to read from previous decisions and orders. (The order is what was ordered to be done to fix the situation.)

Does bringing a case to OAH mean that you will go to court?

Not necessarily! 96 percent of Special Education cases filed with OAH each year are resolved without the need for a hearing and decision. 

Learn more from the Special Education Rights and Responsibilities Manual

How can Support for Families help you in this process?

We can help you brainstorm, gather, and organize information you may need to collect to fill out your request.  We can also connect you to a parent mentor who has gone through the process so they can share some ideas to help you prepare for the process.