Due Process Complaints and Hearings
Parents have the right to file a due process complaint to resolve a dispute with the school district over the identification, evaluation, educational placement, manifestation determination, interim alternative educational placement, or the provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to a student with a disability. The school district can also file a due process complaint.
If a parent files a due process complaint, within 15 days of receiving notice of a parent’s due process complaint the school district must arrange for a resolution meeting with the parent and relevant members of the IEP team who have knowledge of the facts alleged in the due process complaint. Both parties may agree in writing to participate in a Mediation instead of a resolution meeting.
If the due process complaint is not resolved within 30 days, the timelines for a due process hearing begin.
Parents can file a request for an expedited due process hearing if they disagree with a discipline-related decision by the school district which impacts their child’s placement or if they disagree with a manifestation determination. A school district can file a request for an expedited due process hearing if they believe that maintaining the current placement for a student is substantially likely to result in injury to the student or to others.
Parents Need to Know
- Issues: Parent-school disagreement regarding identification, evaluation, educational placement, manifestation determination, interim alternative educational placement, or the provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to a student with a disability
- Who is usually involved: Administrative Law Judge from the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), parent(s), district staff, expert witnesses, attorneys
- Decision maker(s): An OAH Administrative Law Judge, trained to conduct due process hearings under federal and state special education law
- Timeline: Request for an impartial hearing on a due process complaint must be filed within two years of the date the parent or the district knew or should have known about the alleged action that forms the basis of the due process complaint. Resolution meeting within 15 calendar days of the district receiving notice of parent’s due process complaint. Written decision within 45 calendar days following the expiration of 30-day resolution period.
- Cost (parent pays): Parent(s) pays own attorney fees, expert witnesses (if needed). If parents prevail, they may recover reasonable attorney’s fees.
Points of Interest
- A considerable amount of time is needed for preparation.
- Most parents use an attorney.
- If a due process complaint goes to a hearing, the burden of proof is on the party seeking relief.
- Most due process complaints filed in the state of Minnesota are resolved before they go to a hearing.
Important Things to Think About if a Due Process Complaint Goes to a Hearing
- A due process hearing officer is presided over by an OAH Administrative Law Judge who is qualified to conduct this proceeding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Minnesota Statutes, Section 125A.091. In Minnesota, due process hearing officers are trained annually by the Minnesota Department of Education in current statutes, regulations, case law and procedural requirements.
- The decision of the hearing officer is legally binding. When received, either party may appeal the decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals within 60 days or to federal district court within 90 days.
- While parents are not required to have legal representation for a due process hearing, guidance from an attorney can be helpful for this legal proceeding. School districts usually involve an attorney. MDE publishes a list of free or low-cost legal resources for parents to consult.
- The burden of proof in any due process hearing is on the party who requested the proceeding. In other words, if a parent’s due process complaint results in a hearing, then the parent is obligated to prove his or her case to the hearing officer. If the school district due process complaint results in a hearing, then the school district is obligated to prove its case.
- Special Education Due Process Hearings — Minnesota Department of Education
- Minnesota Statutes: 125A.091 Alternative Dispute Resolution and Due Process Hearings
- Minnesota Disability Law Center (MDLC)
The Minnesota Disability Law Center (MDLC) addresses the unique legal needs of persons with disabilities. A statewide project, MDLC provides free civil legal assistance to individuals with disabilities on legal issues that are related to their disability.
- IDEA Special Education Due Process Complaints Parent Guide & Companion Video — National Center on Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE)