A study to evaluate the special education due process hearing requirements in Virginia
The procedural safeguard requirements of P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Act of 1975 are designed to ensure the rights of parents and children in matters related to provisions of special edt!cation and related services. Provisions within the law provide for dispute resolution between parents and LEA through an impartial due process hearing. State education agencies are responsible to ensure these and other requirements in the law are fulfilled to receive federal monies under the Act.
The literature suggests the due process hearing requirements have resulted in issues and outcomes that were unintended by the original design of these procedures to protect fundamental rights, and to ensure a fair and timely hearing. Information was obtained from the key participants in the process: LEAs, parents, and hearing officers.
Through the administration of a survey instrument to 225 LEAs, parents, and hearing officers in Virginia, the following research questions were addressed: a) are the Virginia special education due process hearing requirements being implemented? b) to what extent are they being implemented? and c) what attitudes exist regarding these requirements from the respondents?
The results of the study indicate that Virginia's hearing requirements are not being fully implemented and areas of needed improvement were cited in: a) timeline compliance, b) impartiality in due process hearings, c) LEA and hearing officer responsibilities, and d) consistency in the implementation of procedural safeguards. Negative attitudes towards the hearing procedures were influenced by the hearing officer's selection process, attitude and personal conduct of hearings, and knowledge of his duties and responsibilities. Informal methods of resolving disputes were considered desirable as compared to the formal adversarial hearing.
This study has provided recommendations to the Virginia SEA for needed improvement in the implementation of the due process hearing requirements and suggestions for further research.