Students who qualify for Individualized Education Programs (“IEPs”) are entitled to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (“LRE”) for THAT student. The special legal process used to secure the many different rights under this statute is called a due process hearing- also called an impartial hearing. This isn’t a law suit and the people who hear these disputes are called impartial hearing officers. The relief that parents generally seek includes:
1) Classification in the first instance and evaluations. These claims can be brought only after the parent has engaged in the process of asking their school to give their child an IEP or they have made written requests for evaluations, reevaluations or independent evaluations at public expense. The hearing process can also be used to challenge a school district’s threat to revoke a child’s IEP.
2) Private school tuition
If you can prove that your District didn’t provide a FAPE to your child, i.e. that your child didn’t progress, that the school you have chosen will allow your child to make progress, that you cooperated with your school and gave them timely written notice of your intent to place your child in a private school, then you might have a claim for tuition. Specialized schools are familiar with the process in the New York area often extend financial support, knowing that the parents will be using the impartial hearing process to get the tuition funded.
3) Compensatory education
Compensatory education awards ‘make up’ for services the school district should have supplied and the objective is to place the student in the position they would have occupied if they had received an appropriate education in the first place. Services awarded can include specialized tutoring, specialized therapies (OT, PT, speech), ABA instruction – sometimes in school, often outside of school by private providers. Summer program tuition might qualify in some instances and, in some cases, this relief can be awarded to students who are aging out because of high school graduation or because they are 21 and haven’t gradated from high school.
It’s important to work with someone who understands all of the possible legal claims and how to develop and present a factual record to support those claims. Attorney’s fees are reimbursable if you win, but fees to your experts or non-attorney parent advocates are not.