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Special education due process is a means by which the parent or guardian of a special education student can seek a redress of grievances against a school. This is typically the most formal type of process available to the parents or guardians of the student; the other two common processes are informal dispute resolution and mediation. When due process is utilized, the case is taken to a court and heard by a judge, typically with legal representation for the parents or guardians of the student and the school district. Special education due process is typically used in situations where parents feel the needs of their child are not being properly met by a school’s special education program.
Though different countries may have different applicable procedures for special education due process, in the US, this process is often the most formal sort of legal recourse that can be sought. The other two methods a parent or guardian of a special education student can utilize are informal dispute resolution and mediation. Dispute resolution typically consists of the parents or guardians of a student and a representative for the school coming together to find a compromise in which both parties are satisfied. Mediation usually involves each party attempting to find a resolution, with the assistance of a judge who acts as mediator but does not rule on the case.
If these two other means of resolution have failed to work, then special education due process can be utilized. This type of resolution is similar to a legal trial, and usually involves legal representation for both parties, who argue the merits of the case before a judge. Unlike mediation, the judge in special education due process ultimately makes a ruling on the case, and this ruling can be appealed to higher courts much like any other legal ruling.
Special education due process is typically utilized in situations in which parents or legal guardians for a student with special needs feel those needs are not being met by the school the student is attending. Legally, certain needs must be met, as established in the US by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and similar laws in other countries. In the US, these needs include special programs that must be established to help the student learn more effectively, including speech and physical therapy. If these needs are not being met, then a parent or guardian for a student can pursue special education due process and will typically want to hire the services of an attorney who specializes in education.