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A Due Process Hearing from a Child's Perspective

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When James Brody was 15 years old, he attended the special education due process hearing that his parents requested to enable him to attend Landmark School. The due process hearing was held over a two week period.

During the hearing, James heard all testimony by all witnesses, including his former teachers. He read the exhibits, including all psychological and educational evaluations done on him by the school and private sector experts. James also testified at the hearing. (For more information about James' case, follow the links at the end of this article.)

Pam talked with James during the hearing and found that he had some interesting thoughts about the trial. She asked James to write about his thoughts to help adults learn how children view the litigation process. Because James has dyslexia and dysgraphia, this was not an easy task but he did it.

This is James' article about what it was like to be involved in a special education due process hearing.

My Due Process Hearing

My name is James Brody. I have a learning disability called dyslexia. I go to Landmark School in Prideís Crossing, Massachusetts. Before I started going to Landmark, I was in a special education class at my public school. The teachers didnít know how to teach kids with dyslexia so they didnít teach me how to read or write.

Landmark School

Landmark School specializes in educating kids like me. After I started at Landmark, everything changed for me. I learned to read. At Landmark, I read my first book from start to finish. My parents asked our school system to pay for my tuition at Landmark School but they refused. After they refused, my parents filed for a special education Due Process Hearing. This is my story about what it was like to go through a Due Process Hearing.

Preparing for the Hearing

I had many thoughts going through my mind before the trial, such as "Oh No! Iím going to have to dress up in uncomfortable clothes." Then I thought, "Well, Iíd better start reading the testimony of my teachers to see what they said about me."

My mother and I spent evenings reading over their depositions and discussing what we read. (Note: Before the due process hearing, the school board attorneys took discovery depositions of Jamesí teachers at Landmark School.)

After I read the testimony, I thought that it was going to be pretty easy to testify. I also felt that the phone conferences stunk because of the time delay caused by the speaker phones and because there was a lot of repeating the same information.

We Were All Nervous

The morning of the trial arrived. Of course, since I have a noctural nature, I was extremely tired, as usual. My father, mother and I were all nervous about what was going to happen on the first day of trial.

The courtroom was actually a conference room in a small building in the village where I live. There was one table in the front at which the Judge sat. Ten feet from the Judgeís table there were two other tables. The school board attorneys and the director of special education sat at one table and my family and our attorneys sat at the other. (Note: James' attorneys were Pete Wright and Stacey Bawthinheimer.)

There were extreme temperature rises and drops in the room because the air conditioner was not set at a constant temperature and also was not working properly. This effected everybody in the courtroom by either making them sleepy, laid back, on edge, or nonchalant.

School's Experts Didn't Know Me

During the trial, I thought it was pretty weird that two total strangers were counted as expert witnesses for the other side and were allowed to sit in on the whole trial. I was confused since our expert witnesses didnít sit in and listen to the trial.

The expert witnesses for the other side said what they thought should have been done for me. I felt like they should have been removed from the courtroom and only allowed to come in when it was their turn to testify.

I wondered who were these people who were making judgments about me when they didnít even know me and had only read reports written by other people who didnít really know me. This made me extremely angry and frustrated.


My Testimony

When I was called to testify, it was fairly easy because my lawyer is a Pro at court and preparing witnesses to take the stand. He told me little secrets or strategies, whatever you would like to call it, that helped me improve my concentration while on the stand.

For example, he said "Look at a spot on the wall when the lawyer is asking a question, even if it is your own lawyer. When the lawyer is done, look the judge in the eye and answer the question." He also gave me other little hints to help me through the trial.

When I was on the stand, I got pretty hot and had a dry throat. So, if you ever have to testify, you should have a glass of water and hope that the courtroom has a working air conditioner.

My Thoughts

As the trial went on, I started getting used to hearing my name being mentioned every five minutes and hearing about reports about me. All in all, I felt pretty proud of myself that I was able to make it through the last year at my public school, considering the amount of stress I was experiencing.

Even though it was extremely stressful, I felt that I did very well through the entire process. I was able to take the stand and answer all the questions to the best of my ability. I was very happy that my family filed for due process against my school district so I could go to a school that specializes in helping kids with dyslexia.

Landmark changed my life.

James Brody

Links

To learn about the issues in James' case, read the parents' "Letter to the Stranger."

To learn about the outcome in James' case, read the Review Officer's decision.

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