What happens at a due process hearing?

Parent Question
May. 4, 2022Updated May. 4, 2022

In very rare cases, the mediation meeting will be unsuccessful in settling the disagreement. Often, the district will offer a settlement at this point before going to a hearing with a different judge.

Preparing for the hearing requires selecting the most appropriate documentary evidence to prove your case, and finding expert witnesses to make the case. Note that any fee you pay for an expert witness cannot be reimbursed in legal fees, whatever the outcome of your case. If you are represented by an attorney, the ALJ will only invite your attorney and the district’s legal counsel to the pre-hearing conference. The ALJ will expect to get a clear idea of how many witnesses and pieces of documentary evidence are expected. All the documents and lists of witnesses must be uploaded five days before the hearing. If you are not working with an attorney, the ALJ is used to working with parents who represent themselves. To help you know what to expect, the OAH offers a guide to preparing for the hearing.

The hearing itself works just like a court of law. Both sides make their case using documentary evidence and call witnesses who know the child or are experts in the field. Often, the parents themselves do not speak if represented by counsel. The party that filed the case has the burden of proof, so if you initiated the DPC, it is your or your attorney’s job to show why the hearing officer should find in your favor.

When the Administrative Law Judge makes a decision, it becomes an enforceable, public document. You will be able to read your decision on the OAH website. These decisions are very individualized and therefore do not create a precedent for future cases. Also note that the decision often only obligates the school district until the next annual IEP.

For more information, see our article Due Process 101: Filing for Due Process, Mediation, and the Hearing.

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