It’s Time to Make Maryland, A Leader in Education,
A Leader in Special Education Civil Rights


Shifting the Burden of Proof – It’s a Matter of Fairness! 

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Imagine  .  .  .  .

Being told in May that your son will not be permitted to attend his home school come August, but will instead attend a school miles from home, in a program you don’t believe is right for him.

Being told in an IEP meeting you have to agree to a preschool placement sight unseen, or give up your son’s itinerant special education services.

Being told in April it’s your daughter’s last year at her special needs program; come August, she’ll be mainstreamed in a school she’s never attended.

Being told your child’s paraeducator support is going to be eliminated.  Or his speech services taken away.

Keep in mind that in any of these instances, parental consent is not required, and if you disagree, your recourse is mediation and/or a legal hearing, due process.

Further imagine you can’t afford an attorney, and yet, in a due process hearing, you may have to ask a teacher to testify contrary to her principal’s wishes, or  cross-examine your child’s principal; you may have been denied the chance to observe the placement in dispute or  to have copies of any instructional materials.

Finally, imagine in this due process hearing you, the parent, have the burden of proving, against an entire school district – and its experienced attorney –  the IEP is inappropriate under a complex federal statute called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

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Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), parents and guardians have the right to a due process hearing if they wish to challenge the appropriateness of the educational services being provided to their child with disabilities.1  Currently, in Maryland, when a parent brings a due process complaint, the parent has the burden of proving the school’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) does not provide adequate special education services (that it doesn’t provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE), as required by the IDEA).  This is particularly significant in Maryland where each year for each student, the schools hold an annual IEP review, in which the school can change or eliminate placements or services without parental consent.  Bottom line:  while parents may be members of the IEP team, in Maryland the school has the last word.    And if Maryland parents disagree, and request due process, they have the burden of proof against their child’s entire school district.

However, Maryland can join New York, New Jersey, and Nevada, among others, and pass legislation putting the burden of proof on the school districts.

Recognizing burden of proof on parents as an inequity in need of change, advocates have gathered to advance the civil rights of students with disabilities and pass a law placing the burden of proof where it belongs, on the school districts.  All we ask is that in the few disputes that go to due process, school districts stand up for the IEP by shouldering the burden of demonstrating why the IEP they created and will implement, over parental objection, is appropriate.

It’s time for Maryland, the leading state in education, to become a leader in special education civil rights.

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A law in Maryland placing the burden of proof on the school districts in special education due process is necessary because parents too often face difficulties they should not, getting the special education services their children need. The obstacles they face when disputing Individualized Education Program (IEP)s are tremendous.   Parents typically lack resources, expertise, and legal skills.  The schools districts, on the other hand, know what placements and accommodations are available, and how different children have fared at them.  They also employ the people, such as teachers and principals, on whom the parents must rely for testimony in hearings, or in mediation. Legislation changing the burden of proof  will help level the playing field, and promote: (1) more consistently merit based outcomes; (2) a system which always requires the schools to establish the IEP they created provides a free and appropriate public education (FAPE); (3) accountability; and (4) introspection in the creation of IEPs (thus aiding teachers to teach); and (5) fundamental fairness.

Sign the Petition and Let Annapolis Know You Want Burden of Proof Shifted to the School Districts.  

Let Annapolis Know It’s Time for Maryland to Embrace this Civil Right for Children with Disabilities.  

It’s a Matter of Fairness!

1 The IDEA is the federal law that requires the provision of special education services to special
needs children, and for which the states receive funding. 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.