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Due Process Hearings
Articles | Caselaw

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The IDEA includes rules of procedure for resolving disputes between parents and schools. These rules include mediation, due process hearings, and appeals to state or federal court. (Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, page 107-115)

A due process hearing is usually a formal, contested, adversarial trial. Special education cases are similar to medical malpractice cases, with battles of expert witnesses, and the emotions of bitterly contested divorce cases with child custody and equitable distribution issues.

Before you request a due process hearing, you should be familiar with the federal statute and regulations and your state special education statute and regulations. You should also read the Rules of Adverse Assumptions. (Chapter 21, Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy)

How can parents prevail?

If you write letters and create a paper trail and you have competent, qualified private experts who can testify about what your child needs, you will be in a good position if a due process hearing is necessary.


Advice About the 10-Day Notice Letter to the School. Pete Wright answers questions about what should be included in the parents' 10-day notice letter; article includes links to "Letters to the Stranger" used in his cases.

Anatomy of a Special Education Case. What happens in a special education case?  Read about the case of a young child with autism, from the original due process hearing through decisions from federal court and the U.S. Court of Appeals; this article includes links to pleadings and decisions.

Attorney Manual: Representing the Special Ed Child - For attorneys, advocates, and parents who are preparing for a due process hearing.

Crisis! Emergency! Help!  - If you are in a crisis, this article is a "must read" for you. Learn how parents damage their child's case by assuming that they must DO SOMETHING!

The Stress of Due Process by Debbie Larson. Due process hearings are very time consuming and stressful. In this article you'll find some tips about what you can do to turn the situation around first and avoid due process.

First I Read the Facts, Then I Got MAD. Success Story: How we got an appropriate education and avoided due process.

If You Have a Dispute, Litigation is the Last Resort. Never tell a school, or anyone else, that you plan to sue them. There are other ways to resolve parent-school disputes. Depending on the issue, you may continue to negotiate, file a complaint with the state, or request mediation. Litigation is the last resort.

Reverse Due Process, When the School Sues the Parent. Reverse due process hearings are a defensive legal strategy used by school districts motivated by the school’s fear that the parents will prevail on a claim that the school’s IEP did not provide FAPE.

Answers to Questions about Special Education Litigation & Attorney's Fees by Pete Wright, Esq. Out of every ten parents who consult with me, only one needs an attorney. Parents have a disagreement or dispute with the school about their child’s special education program or placement. They don’t know what to do.

Due Process Hearing: From Child's Perspective. Read what it is like to go through a due process hearing - from the child's perspective.

Due Process Hearing: From Mom's Perspective. Florida Mom tells about lessons she learned at her hearing.

How to Prepare for a Due Process Hearing. Vermont advocate Brice Palmer advises how to prepare for a hearing or review, focuses on importance of planning and organizing. "If you do not plan and organize the pursuit, you are likely to wind up as road kill."

How to Resolve Special Education Disputes: Negotiate, Mediate or Litigate. Learn how to use negotiation, mediation and litigation to resolve disputes - and the pros and cons of each strategy.

How to Put on a Special Education Case - Minnesota lawyer Sonja Kerr provides advice about tactics and strategy to the lawyer who is handling his or her first special education case.

Understanding Tests and Measurements  - The child has received three years of special education for reading problems. Has the child made progress? Has the child fallen further behind? In special education cases, evidence includes standard scores, percentile ranks, subtest scores, and age and grade equivalent scores.

To successfully negotiate or litigate for appropriate services that provide educational benefit, you need to know how to interpret test scores. To ensure that you have the graphics in this article, print the article from the screen (rather than download it).

Learn More About Tests and Assessments: Educational Progress Graphs - Our Slide Show Will Show You How to Do It!

Download Tests & Measurements Slide Show as a PowerPoint Presentation (204kb)

Whitehead Case: The Inside Story - The famous $600,000 jury verdict against the Hillsborough Florida school district - what was this case really about? Laura Whiteside, attorney for Andrew Whitehead and his parents, tells the "inside story."

Whitehead Case: Jury Awards $600,000 Damages to Parents - In Whitehead v. Hillsborough, a Florida jury took less than 2 hours before deciding that the school system retaliated against the parents of a child with Downs Syndrome.

Should We Sue the School? I Don't Know What Else to Do by Susan Bruce. Never say anything in an IEP meeting that you are not prepared to do. You should never say anything that you cannot “back up” with data, statistics or documentation. Use this same principal for requests - never ask for things unless you have the data to show that  the request is “appropriate.”


Porter v. Bd of Trustees of Manhattan Beach USD (9th Circuit, 2002). Parents of child for whom special education program was ordered by special education hearing officer under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act were not required to seek new hearing before hearing officer or to comply with state’s complaint resolution procedure before suing for alleged failure to fully implement the program.

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Last updated: 03/15/11

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