Due Process under the IDEA and Section 504

In the last post, I related the recent case of a student who was diagnosed with Type I, Diabetes, ADHD, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  The school system had failed to timely identify, locate, and evaluate the student to determine her eligibility for special education and related services under the IDEA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.  She was facing a school disciplinary hearing in which it was likely the school system would recommend long-term suspension, expulsion or placement at the Alternative School for probably one school year.  After interviewing the client and reviewing the student’s educational records, it was clear that the school system did not comply with the Child Find requirements of the IDEA or Section 504.  The school system had also placed the student on a Response-to-Intervention track to monitor her educational progress. But little, if anything, was done to address the student’s chronic behavior problems and her significant academic failures.  Consequently, I filed a request for due process challenging the school system’s failure to locate, identify, and evaluate the student and determine her eligibility for special education and related services.

After the school system received the request for due process, I was contacted by the school sysatem’s attorney to convene an eligibility meeting for special education and develop an IEP for her. This happened with two business days. At the eligibility meeting, the student was determined to be eligible under the category of Other Health Impaired.  The IEP committee then developed an Individualized Educational Program for the student. The committee agreed to conduct a functional behavior assessment for the purpose of developing a behavior intervention plan to address the student’s behavioral challenges. The IEP committee developed a lengthy and detailed Health Plan to address the student’s medical and other needs concerning her Type I Diabetes.  The school system further agreed to wipe clean her past school disciplinary record since the beginning of  the 2012-2013 so that she would start at step one.  All of this was achieved with two days of the school system receiving the request for due process.

Why did the school system respond so rapidly to this request for due process? Why did the school system determine that the student qualified for special education and related services and develop an IEP without question?  The answer lies in when does a parent have a compelling case for due process. Not all requests for due process are this easily resolved.  A number of requests for due process result in protracted litigation.  On the other hand, many requests for due process result in settlement.  If a paent’s case is properly analyzed by an experienced special education attorney, you can certainly turn lemons into lemonade.  An experienced special education attorney can disect a special education dispute quickly and determine whether the merits of the case would likely result in a favorable decision in due process.  It is my both experience and belief that due process can be used judiciously to resolve most special education disputes favorably for the parent and student.  When a special education dispute arises that cannot be resolved by an advocate, parents should seek out the advise of an experienced special education attorney for an opinion whether the case merits a request for due process hearing.