AASA Proposes Changes to Special Education Due Process System


Contact: Kitty Porterfield, kporterfield@aasa.org, 703.774.6953

Alexandria, Va., April 4, 2013 – The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) today released a set of proposals intended to offer an alternative to the current, federally-mandated process by which parents and school personnel negotiate special education services.

“The due process system as it exists today is expensive, unwieldy, and inequitable,” said Daniel Domenech, AASA executive director, in releasing the proposal. “It was designed to improve the academic outcomes for students with disabilities, but instead it causes deep divisions between schools and parents and often little else. Now we have the opportunity to begin a dialogue among all the people involved so that, as we approach the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), we can craft a more effective negotiating tool to use when parents and school administrators disagree.”

The study, Rethinking the Special Education Due Process System, is the first in an AASA series that addresses problems with the current federal IDEA statute. The study is based on a survey of 200 randomly selected school superintendents from large and small urban, suburban, and rural school districts across the country. In crafting the proposal AASA also held discussions with superintendents, special education administrators, special education lawyers, professors and researchers in special education litigation matters, hearing officers, state officials, and other education policy experts.

The survey data demonstrates that the current due process system presents significant and unintended consequences for students with disabilities, their parents, and the teachers and administrators who serve them. Numerous other studies have also documented that the current system used to resolve differences between parents and schools is costly and complex. It hinders parents—especially low- and middle-income parents—from challenging a school district’s special education services. The current system often leaves both parents and school system personnel dissatisfied.

“Parents request the vast majority of due process hearings,” Domenech noted, “but the school districts prevail in most cases. School districts across the country spend over $90 million per year in conflict resolution. The process devours time that could better be spent educating the child and creates an adversarial relationship between parent and school. We have to do better—for the students’ sake.”

The recommendations set out a series of steps to be followed in attempting to resolve differences. Resolution can occur at any point in the process. Key among the proposals contained in the study are

• The ability to use a state-approved, trained facilitator to help create an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
• The use of a special education consultant who can recommend an educational plan for the district to follow when agreement cannot be reached.
• Finally, the ability of either party to file a lawsuit in federal court.

“Local school boards across the country are acutely aware of the challenges for both families and school districts with the current due process system and support the direction of the AASA study and recommendations to shift greater emphasis to education outcomes without compromising the rights of parents to have access to the courts”, said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director at the National school Boards Association. “We look forward to resolving these challenges in the current process as the IDEA reauthorization moves forward.”

In the coming months AASA officials will be meeting with educators in an attempt to refine the proposals. The complete study can be found at www.aasa.org/rethinkingdueprocess.aspx

For more information, contact Sasha Pudelski, AASA government affairs manager, spudelski@aasa.org.

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About AASA 
The American Association of School Administrators, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. The mission of AASA is to advocate for the highest quality public education for all students, and develop and support school system leaders. For more information, visit www.aasa.org. Follow AASA on twitter at www.twitter.com/AASAHQ. Become a fan of the AASA Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AASApage.