Due Process Proceedings – California Special Education Rights Attorney
Filing a due process complaint with the California Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) is a formal way to resolve disputes about a student’s education with a school district. This process is only for special education disputes, not general education issues. Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides this right to parents and guardians to formally advocate for their child if there is a conflict related to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of a child, or the provision of a free and appropriate public education.
If there is a disagreement with the district that cannot be resolved at the IEP meeting, then a parent could file a due process complaint. A resolution session and/or mediation will be scheduled. If the mediation is unsuccessful, then a due process hearing will be held.
Things to know before filing a due process complaint:
- The letter must contain the following information:
- The child’s name.
- The address of the child’s home.
- The name of the child’s school.
- A description and the facts of the dispute. Make sure to include all information because one cannot raise an issue later in a hearing that was not in this complaint statement.
- A proposed solution.
- The party filing a due process complaint must file the complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings and send a copy to the school district.
- There are time limits for each step in the process:
- A complaint must be filed within two years.
- The school must hold a resolution session within 15 days after receiving the complaint. This is an information process.
- Voluntary mediation may be needed with a neutral judge to try to resolve the case. This is a formal process with a neutral judge from the Office of Administrative Hearings.
- The parent or guardian has 90 days from the due process decision to file a lawsuit in a state or federal court. If unsuccessful at mediation, then a hearing will take place. Any party that is not satisfied with the outcome may file an appeal in federal court.
What Rights Do Students and Families Have?
A due process hearing is similar to a courtroom trial, and parents have similar rights as if they were at a trial. These rights include hiring a lawyer to advise during the hearing, confronting and cross-examining the school’s witnesses, bringing in witnesses to testify, and opening the hearing to the public. According to the IDEA, the hearing officer that decides the case must be “impartial.” This means the officer cannot be an employee of the school or have a conflict of interest with either side. In California, this person is a trained, impartial hearing officer and referred to as an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
Five days before the hearing, all parties must disclose all evaluations and evidence that they will present at the hearing. Additionally, parents have the right to a written verbatim recording of the hearing at no cost after the hearing. Once the judge reaches a decision, either party may choose to appeal that decision.
When Should Someone Seek the Services of a Special Education Attorney?
Special education law is complex, and so is presenting a legal case in a due process hearing. Presenting the best case requires knowledge of rules of evidence, witness questioning, hearing procedure, and so forth.
Here’s How We Can Help
The Law Offices of Jennifer Chang believe in protecting students’ rights to a safe and equal opportunity education under California laws. If you have questions before filing a complaint and need expert advice, please reach out to our attorneys. Jennifer Chang has offices in California in Los Angeles, Buena Park, and San Jose.