The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) gives parents the right to an impartial due process hearing to resolve disagreements over what constitutes an appropriate special education program for their children with disabilities. KPS4Parents has created a petition to address an inequity that currently compromises the impartiality of due process.
In these dark economic times, it is not uncommon for children to be deprived of services they need in order to grow up to become productive members of society over budgetary considerations. But, the pennies saved today at their expense turn into billions of dollars spent over their lifetimes in government benefits and costs for things such as welfare, institutionalization, and incarceration – much of which could have been avoided had they received appropriate special education services in childhood.
One of the most critical aspects to any due process hearing is the ability to present expert witnesses. However, a 2006 Supreme Court decision, Arlington Central School District v. Murphy, stripped parents of their right to recover expert witness fees upon prevailing against their local education agencies in due process cases. This right is afforded to the prevailing plaintiffs in other forms of civil rights cases and there is no sound reason that parents should be burdened with the out-of-pocket costs of successfully showing in hearing when their publicly funded education agencies have failed their children. Expert witness fees would still not be recoverable if the parents did not prevail in due process under the newly proposed IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (S. 613 and H.R. 1208).
By making expert witnesses unaffordable to so many parents of children with disabilities, this decision created a significant power imbalance that completely removed impartiality from due process altogether. Publicly funded education agencies with far deeper pockets than parents are empowered to parade their own experts through hearing uncontested because so many parents cannot afford to hire experts on their own.
Parents who can afford expert witnesses are more likely to throw in the towel and privately finance intervention, letting school districts’ violations slide and become entrenched, regular practices against the children with disabilities of parents who cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for services or expert witnesses. Publicly funded education agencies are also more likely to file for due process against low- and middle-income parents as a preemptive strike, fully knowing these parents lack the financial resources to hire their own experts to refute the agencies’ assertions.
The Supreme Court in 2006 created a set of circumstances that allow the public schools, which are government agencies, to bully parents already struggling with the hardships of raising children with disabilities into submission and force them to accept inadequate special education programs to the detriment of their children, their communities, and the taxpaying public. The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (S. 613 and H.R. 1208) seeks to remedy this gross injustice.
The net result of all of the 2006 Supreme Court decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy is the deprivation of meaningful educational benefit to children with disabilities, many of whom have the potential to grow up to become taxpayers rather than tax-dependents. Even if you do not know a child with disabilities, the current situation is taking money out of your pocket now and will continue to do so far into the future. But, you can help put a stop to this insanity.
By contacting your representatives in Congress and asking them to cosponsor the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (S. 613 and H.R. 1208), you can help restore parents’ right to recover their expert witness fees when they prevail in hearing in due process cases. Please sign this petition to contract your Congresspeople and ask them to cosponsor the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (S. 613 and H.R. 1208).