Last week, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act was introduced in Congress to allow parents to recover expert witness fees when they prevail in due process hearings and court actions under the IDEA. This bill will overturn the Supreme Court decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy that ruled that parents could not recover such expert fees when they prevail.
Organizational sign-ons are welcome from disability organizations and groups, formal or informal; informal networks of attorneys and advocates and others; parent support groups; health, civil rights, and other related organizations or groups; nonprofit organizations, public interest law firms and organizations, associations, and any other supportive groups.
Please sign-on to the following letter to Congress in support of parent rights to expert witness fees in IDEA cases!
Email your name, the name of your organization or group, and your city, state, zip code, and email address to – email@example.com (Jessica Butler, Congressional Affairs Coordinator, Autism National Committee)
The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act would simply do what Congress intended in 1986. In order for the right to go to hearing to be meaningful parents must have expert witnesses. Expert witnesses can include psychologists; pediatricians and physicians; therapists; educational experts; inclusion experts; positive behavioral support experts, and others. Their testimony makes the children’s case that FAPE is not being offered or provided.
The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocate’s (COPAA) and the Autism National Committee (AutCom) are working together to gather signatures in support of the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act. We ask you to sign on to the letter below in support of the bill. The letter will be provided to members of Congress.
We, the undersigned organizations, urge Congress to pass the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, S.613 and H.R. 1208. The bill would overturn the Supreme Court decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy by restoring Congress’ original intent in enacting the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986 that parents who prevail in administrative hearings and court actions be allowed to recover expert witness fees as well as attorneys’ fees.
Under the IDEA, schools are required to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to children with disabilities. Congress recognized long ago that there will be times when parents and school districts differ as to what constitutes FAPE and that in those situations parents should be allowed to seek a hearing before an impartial administrative hearing officer. In those hearings parents must provide testimony from such expert witnesses as psychologists, doctors, therapists, and educational experts to prove that FAPE was not provided to their children. However, nearly 36% of children with disabilities live in families earning less than $25,000 a year; over two-thirds in families earn less than $50,000 a year. For both low and middle income parents, the right to due process is real only if the fees of these experts are shifted when they prevail.
Prevailing plaintiffs in ADA, Title VII, and other civil rights have the statutory right to recover expert witness fees. We ask Congress to take action to restore its original intent and provide this same right to parents who prevail in IDEA cases.
Nor would this bill be burdensome for school districts. Parents proceed to litigation only as a last resort. In 2003, the GAO reported that there were only 5 hearings per 10,000 special education students. Only parents who prevail could recover fees; parents who do not prevail could not.
We ask Congress to pass the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, S. 613 and H.R. 1208. Restoring Congress’ original intent the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act is important to ensure that parents are not deprived of their right to due process because they cannot afford expert witnesses. Thank you very much for your support.
Please contact either of us if you have questions. Thank you very much for your support.
Jessica Butler, Congressional Affairs Coordinator, Autism National Committee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bob Berlow, Co-chair, COPAA Government Relations Committee (email@example.com)
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To sign-on you must email your name, the name of your organization or group, and your city, state, zip code, and email address to – firstname.lastname@example.org (Jessica Butler, Congressional Affairs Coordinator, Autism National Committee)