Congress considers whether parents should be reimbursed for expert witnesses in special ed cases

23 Mar

Families in dispute with their school districts over special education have the right to file for a due process hearing. Most of the time, these disputes are settled in mediation. A few cases go to hearing. These hearings are expensive for both sides, and a major cost to families can result from expert witnesses: people like psychologists or speech/language pathologists who testify to the unique needs of the child in question.

In 2006 the Supreme Court of the United States heard a case on whether school districts were required to reimburse families for expert witnesses. In Arlington v. Murphy the Court ruled that families do not have the right to be reimbursed. This is true even if the family prevails. Or, to put it another way, if a district fails to meet the needs of a child and parents are forced to not only file due process but take the issue to hearing, the parents must pay the expert witnesses–even though the district was at fault.

Congress has recently introduced bills in both he House and Senate to reinstate expert witness fee reimbursement as The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act. Previous attempts to reinstate expert fee reimbursements have failed, but this is the first time the bill has been introduced in the House and Senate.

More on this at WrightsLaw and DisabilityScoop.

One Response to “Congress considers whether parents should be reimbursed for expert witnesses in special ed cases”

  1. livsparents March 23, 2011 at 11:34 #

    Makes perfect sense to me that if a district foces parents to take them to court, that the district should pay for expenses should they be found to be in the wrong. It’s painful how stacked the cards are against the parents, this would give them at least some hope that their fight will not leave them financially devastated… win or lose
    That’s the good thing about having your case heard in the Supreme Court. Even if you lose, you draw enough attention to your issue to warrent new proposals, bills and hopefully laws to fix the injustices. You’d think other losing court cases could have focused on mustering support enough for legislation…rather than focusing on more conspiracy theory.

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