With respect to students on an IEP who are being disciplined, sometimes disagreements will arise between the child’s parents, who believe that the problem behavior is a manifestation of the student’s disability or a school’s failure to properly implement the IEP, and the rest of the IEP team, who believe this not to be the case. If this happens, it is a serious problem, and the school district is going to have to make some very important decisions. Things for the district can turn very messy very quickly – not to mention very expensive – if there is a determined parent, and the district must make a decision as to whether it wants to have this fight or wants to work out some kind of a compromise with the parent.
Whenever a disagreement with respect to discipline arises between parents and the district, parents have the right to appeal under 34 CFR 300.532. A parent may file a due process complaint with the Colorado Department ofEeducation and request a hearing, which most likely will be presided over by an administrative law judge (ALJ). The hearing officer may find that the student’s rights were violated and/or that the problem behavior was a manifestation of the student’s disability. If that’s the case, the hearing officer may return him or her back to their regular educational setting. Plus, the hearing officer may award attorney fees to the parents, and that can be extraordinarily expensive for a district. If there was no violation of the student’s rights and/or the student’s behavior was not a manifestation of the student’s disability, the hearing officer may agree with the district and keep the student in an IAES.
Any hearing requested under circumstances like these will be on an expedited schedule, meaning that the hearing must occur within 20 school days of the date the complaint requesting the hearing is filed, and the hearing officer must make a decision within 10 days after the hearing. Prior to the hearing, a resolution meeting must occur within seven days after the district has received notice of the complaint. The resolution meeting can be waived if both the district and the parents agree, but the district normally will disagree because it will use such a meeting as a good opportunity to resolve the complaint and thereby avoid a full-blown hearing.
Even the results of a hearing can continue to be appealed through normal judicial channels. Or another option that parents who feel aggrieved can take is to file a complaint directly to the state department of education. Such complaints can be very expensive to deal with for the district, and they may also result in the imposition of serious burdens upon a school district if the state department of education finds that violations occurred.