Special Education Dispute Resolution During Covid-19
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSEP) recently issued information regarding implementation of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) dispute resolution procedures during the COVID-19 outbreak.
OSEP encourages parents of children with special needs, teachers and school administrators to work informally to resolve disagreements regarding educational services, including disagreements regarding services provided during the coronavirus pandemic.
However, when informal attempts at resolution are unsuccessful, under the IDEA, mediation, and hearings are available.
As part of the resolution process under the IDEA, parents and school districts are required to participate in a resolution meeting within 15 days of the filing of the due process complaint, unless both parties agree to waive it.
OSEP's advice points out that there is nothing in the IDEA preventing parents and education agencies from mutually agreeing to extend the 15-day timeline. As a special education attorney, this is something I sometimes advise the parents I represent to do when they wish to participate in a resolution meeting, and there is a problem with scheduling the meeting within the 15-days.
The exception to this 15-day timeline is when a request for expedited due process is filed regarding a disciplinary removal of a student with special needs. In that case, the resolution meeting must be held within 7 days.
OSEP also advises parents and education agencies that to ensure the safety of all involved, resolution meetings can be held virtually as a means of social distancing. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, my clients and I often participated in resolution meetings via telephone conference. I have found this a convenient way for busy folks to meet with school district staff. Since the outbreak, I have continued to participate in resolution meetings via telephone conference.
In California, the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) administers mediations and hearings. While schools are closed, OAH has issued an order that mediations and hearings are to be held virtually. This ensures the safe participation of all involved. OAH is still working the bugs out of handling mediations and hearings virtually. This is a small price to pay for a safe process.
Education Attorney Molly Watson
Serving children with special needs in California