Special education due process hearings: state differences

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Virginia Tech


Although some literature exists that examines special education due process practices, the studies have been done in different ways and consequently result in different outcomes. Therefore the purpose of this study was to examine the one-and two-tier due process system in the United States. The study focused on national practices of due process, issues disputed, and disability categories involved in special education conflicts.

A survey of the 50 state directors of special education and the director from the District of Columbia was conducted to obtain information concerning due process hearings and dispute resolution for the time period 1986-1987 to 1990-1991. Records of all reported special education litigation for the same time period were obtained from the Law Offices of Charles L. Weatherly in Atlanta, Georgia.

Data from the states providing due process information were analyzed with a t-test. The remaining data, both from the survey instrument and litigation records, were analyzed using qualitative analysis, frequency counts, and percentages of the raw data.

Findings of the study reveal a slight national trend toward a one-tier due process system for special education dispute resolution. Furthermore, placement remains the most frequently litigated issue, and specific learning disability the most frequently involved category in special education disputes. Finally, there is no predictable relationship between the size of the disability population and the volume of special education litigation.

The results of the study evidenced the need for continued research of national practices of due process. Additional research is also needed in the areas of mediation, the costs of due process hearings, and hearing officer's authorization to award attorney fees.