NY Law puts burden of proof on schools in special education disputes

The Daily Star – Online Edition

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A new law will make it easier for parents of disabled children to challenge school districts’ decisions regarding their child’s education, Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s office announced Thursday.

The law signed this week makes the school district responsible for proving it is satisfying legal obligations to provide an appropriate individualized education program for a student with a disability, according to Spitzer’s office.

For more than 30 years in New York, school districts that were challenged had to prove in an administrative hearing that a student’s program was appropriate, said Spitzer spokesman Jeffrey Gordon. However, a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling put the burden on the party requesting an administrative ruling, usually parents, for all states that didn’t have a specific law or regulation on the issue -including New York.

“This bill rightly places the burden of proof on school districts that have the expertise needed to assess options and the responsibilities for implementing individual educational plans,” said Spitzer…The law, which goes into effect in two months, will also strike a balance between a parent’s desire for private placements and a school district’s obligation to pay for out-of-district services, said Gordon. In the case of a parent seeking a private program for their child, they would have to prove it was more appropriate than the school district’s individualized program.

 

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2 thoughts on “NY Law puts burden of proof on schools in special education disputes

  1. I’m so glad to see this law passed. When I was practicing I represented the mother of an autistic child and, while she eventually got her private placement, the abuses by the school system were unconscionable.

  2. The statute returns New York to its prior practice in regard to the burden of proof and burden of production in special ed hearings.

    As an Impartial Hearing Officer in New York since 1979, I prefer to have the school district bear the burden, especially in cases when the parents are unrepresented or have a non-lawyer representative. Having the school district’s attorney go first, organizing the proof, hopefully in chronological order, assists the decision maker.

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