Receiving a Due Process complaint can be a stressful and confusing event. However, several steps can be initially taken to reduce stress and even save some legal fees. Below are our top 5 tips to follow after receiving a Due Process complaint.
1. Know the Facts.
Knowing the facts surrounding each case can help calm the nerves of uncertainty. Moreover, it is essential to have a complete understanding of a case’s facts in order to determine and evaluate resolution options. Perhaps the case involves facts that would not allow the local educational agency to present a strong case at a hearing. On the other hand, the case’s facts may reveal that the local educational agency satisfied all legal obligations. Either way, initially gathering key facts upon receipt of a Due Process filing is essential to appropriate decision making.
2. Prepare and Organize the File.
Frequently, administrators, teachers and other specialists, will have access to a student’s records (e.g., IEPs, assessment reports, progress reports, report cards, disciplinary records, service logs, correspondence). This can create challenges as important documents may not be collected in one location. Gathering and organizing all that information will save time as the case advances. Additionally, gathering all documents can help the local educational agency assess viable resolution options. Ensuring that all the relevant documents are gathered and organized can help save time and frustration when responding to a Due Process filing.
3. Identify Witnesses.
Knowing who the key witnesses will be and identifying them early will save time and stress as the hearing approaches. Administrators, teachers, and other specialists with important information may no longer be employed by the local educational agency. It can often be difficult to contact a key witness if the former employee has changed jobs and/or moved. Identifying and locating witnesses will save valuable time should the case advance to a hearing.
4. Know the Timelines.
Typically, a Due Process complaint response is due 10 calendar days after receipt. In addition, the local educational agency is required to convene a resolution session with the parents and the relevant members of the IEP team to discuss the facts of the complaint within 15 calendar days after receipt, unless the parties agree to waive it. The fact that notice of a Due Process Complaint arrives just before or during any school break does not affect these timelines. Therefore, it is important that information is gathered and witnesses identified in a timely manner. Having this information readily available can ensure an appropriate response is filed and the resolution session is productive.
5. Evaluate Options.
After carefully reviewing the complaint, the key issues and potential response options should be evaluated. If the complaint is over a narrow and easily remedied issue, perhaps a resolution can be reached quickly. On the other hand, perhaps the best option it to gather information and contact legal counsel. Litigation requires constant reevaluation as facts are discovered and options are explored. Understanding the local educational agency’s options at the initial filing can help to dictate an appropriate response.