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The Lighter Side of Special Education: The Due Process Hearing
I love filing requests for hearing because they invariably produce the same response every time - that is, the district is befuddled.
"We are befuddled," is the constant rejoinder of the district's attorney when he contacts me.
"Just because this child is 15 and reads at a 1st grade level and has never received any tutoring of any kind, we are befuddled and yes, hurt. What has happened to the trust we have worked so hard to forge?"
Parents often find that once they file for due process, there is a subtle change in attitude on the part of the district. This is usually in evidence when, at the next meeting, the parents are seated at a table covered in a fine cloth while white gloved waiters serve them champagne. This will only serve to soften them, however, if the champagne is Dom Perignon AND the pupil services director gets down on the floor and kisses their feet.
Oftentimes, these matters are settled without a hearing. Though amicable settlement of disputes is always desirable, parents have to be careful because the district will always refuse to reimburse the parents for their fees when the matter has been settled.
Even where the settlement agreement provides that the offending untrained teachers and staff must be summarily executed, a new building will be erected in the child's name, and scantily clad slaves will feed grapes to this child during snack, the district will steadfastly maintain that the parents were not the prevailing party.
"We would have done all these things," the district will say, "if the parents had just ASKED instead of jumping the gun and filing for hearing before we were given a chance."
Even when cases go to hearing, and a decision for the parents is issued, the district's attorney will assure all the members of the School Board that the district actually won.
After all, the district must only reimburse the parents for 10 years of private school tuition instead of the 12 the parents requested, and anyway the district's law firm will only be charging $450,000 instead of the usual half mil because 2 of the firm's team of 10 attorneys got sick and could not attend the last half of the hearing.
The school board members will then congratulate themselves and pat each other on the back before moving on to more important matters such as the district's failure to meet 16 of the 17 state standards established by proficiency testing.
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