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Special Ed Appeals Can Be Costly

Posted Jul 24, 2007 12:49 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Two U.S. Supreme Court rulings and an amended law up the ante for parents seeking special education services for their children.

The legal precedents are just one obstacle faced by parents, who often face skeptical review hearing officers deciding their administrative appeals when schools deny services, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports.

One financial impediment is a 2004 amendment to the federal law that requires free and appropriate education for disabled children. The amendment requires parents who file a “frivolous” appeal of an adverse decision to pay the school’s legal costs.

The U.S. Supreme Court has also made the decision to appeal more difficult. A 2005 decision requires parents to bear the burden of persuasion in the administrative hearings, and a 2006 decision holds that school districts don’t have to pay for parents’ witness fees.

School districts contend they are winning more cases because schools are offering better services to special education children. Charles Weatherly is a lawyer at an Atlanta firm that represents school districts in several states. "Now that they have discovered the expense of litigation and of funding private placements, they're putting more money into programming,” he says.

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