Do I need a lawyer to go through due process?
It’s important to know that filing a due process complaint is similar to filing a lawsuit. You do not need to go through an attorney, but you are more likely to be successful if you do. Dina C. Kaplan, a special education attorney, tells us, “Although the due process system was originally designed to give parents access to a way to resolve disputes without involving the courts, due process has in practice become major litigation.” You are making a legal complaint and “an allegation that your school failed to follow the law.” The hearing procedures, case law, rules of evidence, and witness testimony are very similar to a court of law, and expert counsel is needed to be successful.
Chris Arroyo, Los Angeles Regional Office Manager for the California State Council for Developmental Disabilities, told Undivided that “our general recommendation to folks is that they do obtain an attorney for due process in special education.” He explained that there are many reasons, “one of the largest being that those hearings follow the rules of evidence, which is an entire body of law unto itself.”
Your local education agency (LEA) or district can also file a DPC to resolve a disagreement. If this happens, you should consult an attorney or, if your child is a Regional Center client, you can also seek advice from the office of Clients Rights Advocates at Disability Rights California. (You can also consult with a free or low-cost attorney.)
For more information, see our article Due Process 101: Filing for Due Process, Mediation, and the Hearing.