SB 0958 Revises Special Education Due Process Hearing Procedures
LR Number:S3565.01I Fiscal Note:3565-01
Last Action:04/02/96 - Voted Do Pass S Education Committee
Effective Date:August 28, 1996
Full Bill Text | All Actions | Senate Home Page | List of 1996 Senate Bills
Current Bill Summary

SB 958 - This act creates a mediation process as a means of conflict resolution between school districts and parents of students needing, or recommended by the school district to need, special education. The parents and school district may attempt to resolve their differences through mediation following an informal resolution conference and prior to a due process hearing.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) shall provide an impartial mediator upon request at no cost to either the parents or the school district and costs will be paid by the State Board of Education. Both the mediation process and the mediator shall be mutually agreeable to the parents and the school district. The mediator shall be selected from a list maintained by DESE and shall meet training, impartiality, and assessment requirements pursuant to DESE regulations. The mediator shall assist the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable voluntary and consensual agreement in the best interests of the child, and the mediator shall make no decisions.

School districts may not use mediation to deny or delay a parent's right to a due process hearing. Mediation may be terminated by either party at any time. Any mediation agreement must be completed within 30 days of the decision to mediate. No statements made by either party during mediation will be offered or used as evidence in any hearing, review of hearing decision, or civil action.

This act also makes changes in the due process hearing procedure. Upon request by either party, the State Board of Education, rather than the school district as provided by current law, shall establish a three-member hearing panel within fifteen days of such request. Within ten days of the receipt by DESE of the request for a due process hearing, each party may select one member of the panel, and if a party fails to select a member within ten days, such member shall be appointed by DESE. The State Board shall choose the third panel member who shall serve as the chairperson of the panel and shall be a licensed attorney. Current law requiring the State Board to appoint legal counsel to serve an advisory role to the panel is repealed.

The hearing panel shall forward its written decision to each party within 45 days of the receipt of the request for a due process hearing. The legal rights of the parties as participants in the hearing are expanded. The parents may have the child who is the subject of the hearing be present and may open the hearing to the public.