The surest way to get what you want for your child’s special education is to make a compelling, winning case in writing, before you ever go to hearing.
This is why I treat every communication with a school district as an opportunity to document my client’s case. Letters and emails to administrators are written from the perspective that they will be read by a hearing officer.
Here in Connecticut, parents must present their case first before a hearing officer. So, even though, in CT the burden of proof (that an IEP is appropriate for a child) supposedly rests on the school district, in reality, parents present their entire case first. This puts the district at an advantage as they can prepare their side of the story to directly oppose and overcome each parent concerns presented at the hearing first.
So, I force school district to present their case before even filing a due process demand. It is easy. When the district opposes a parent’s request, I make the district give us an answer in writing. This is supposed to be done on the “Prior Written Notice” pages on the IEP, but the information they document is always scant. I will ask them to clarify – giving them ample opportunity to “make their case.”
For instance, if a parent formally requests additional speech and language therapy and the district refuses the request, I will, after I have gotten a copy of the IEP, ask them to clarify their reason and expand on the negligible PWN supplied in the IEP. Usually the reason they give is something pithy and virtually meaningless like “student performance does not support additional services”. Once I have it in writing, I save it.
When and if the parents go to due process, I will dispute the districts written reasons directly, and present our own case refuting every reason the school gives. When it is their turn to present their side, I will not allow them to expand on their PWN and give additional reasons. I will object to anything the school tries to add outside of the reasons they provided because they were never presented to parents prior to the hearing. They don’t get a second bite of the apple.