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How will the proposed amendments to the New York impartial hearing process affect my child with special needs when a concern arises?

The New York Board of Regents has proposed amendments to improve special education hearings, and currently the changes are open for public comment. These changes will be finalized at their April meeting and go into effect May 16, 2012. The amendments to the 200.1 and 200.5 Regulations of the Commissioner of Education look to improve the due process system and cost effectiveness of the hearings, and align the regulations with federal laws concerning the hearing timeline requirements and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The Office of Special Education, which is part of the Department of Education, found that New York State “needs assistance” and failed to adjudicate hearings in a timely fashion. Only 84.25 percent were adjudicated per the requirements in a timely manner. The proposed amendments would address six procedural concerns to improve the impartial hearings:

1. Appointment and certification of impartial hearing officers (IHO)

IHOs would have their certification rescinded if they do not accept an appointment within a two-year time period unless good cause can be shown. IHOs would be prohibited to take an appointment if they were in a pending, due process complaint with the same school district, are an attorney or an attorney for the same school district, or provide special education advocacy.

2. Consolidate multiple due process requests for the same student

The amendment would create procedures to consolidate multiple hearing requests.

3. Prehearing conferences would be conducted on all due process requests starting July 1, 2012

This prehearing order would help to address procedural matters and define the factual issues that will be adjudicated at the hearing. This will help to expedite the hearing and render more efficient decisions.

4. Requests for withdrawals of due process hearings

This amendment would create procedures to withdraw a due process complaint and require notice to the IHO if done after the hearing begins.

5. Timeline extensions for an impartial hearing decision

IHOs could not extend decisions due to their own schedule conflicts, nor could they grant an extension after the date the record is closed. The amendment does allow one 30-day extension and requires the IHO to provide the facts for granting the extension.

6. Decision timelines

Decisions are to be made within 45 days. Efficient hearing decisions will help to uphold a child’s educational needs and well-being. This will also help cut down on costs to districts.

People who want to learn more about the amendments and how it could affect their child’s education should contact a New York special education advocate. The P-12 Education Committee is accepting public comments on these amendments through early spring. Littman Krooks’ special education attorneys help individuals obtain the education and special services they need and deserve. To learn more about our special education advocacy services  visit http://www.littmankrooks.com.

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