Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Special Education Hearing Officer Qualifications - Part II

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In the first part of this series last week, I discussed the options that parties have when they have a dispute concerning the educational program, etc for a child with a disability. The options are numerous and sometimes confusing, so I encourage you to read that post before the others in this series. Today, I'm going to discuss the new (since 2005) mandatory qualifications for hearing officers. You can find a searchable version of the he IDEA statute and the federal regs at the U. S Department of Education "Building the Legacy" website, which also has a link on the lefthand side of this blog. In future posts I will explore my ideas regarding the training of special ed hearing officers and maybe their care and feeding. The final post in the series will include some thoughts on qualities that make a good hearing officer. As I said last week, please note that I have a number of potential biases here. First, I am a hearing officer and/or a mediator for four states. Second, I do a lot of special ed law consulting for states. Third, I have conducted hearing officer trainings at national conferences, at regional trainings and for a number of individual states. I have trained hearing officers from every state, and I love training hearing officers. I have definite opinions here and my business interests could color my thinking. So please bear that disclosure in mind.

Before the 2004 reauthorization changes took effect (on July 1, 2005), the only qualification for a due process hearing officer under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was that the hearing officer not be an employee of the State Education Department or the school district. (old) § 615 (f)(3); and that he not have a personal or professional interest that would conflict with objectivity, 34 C.F.R. Section 300.508(a)(2)(old regs). The reauthorization added three more qualifications for due process hearing officers. The following new qualities were required for a special ed hearing officer: the knowledge and ability to conduct hearings in accordance with standard legal practice; the knowledge and ability to write decisions in accordance with standard legal practice; knowledge of and ability to understand special education law. Section 615 (f)(3)(A)(ii)-(iv); 34 C.F.R. § 300.511(c).

So what is your opinion, are these qualifications enough to be a good hearing officer? Is more needed? On the other hand, would we be lucky to find a trial court judge on any given day who met these criteria? What do you say?

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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Giving special training to hearing officers is necessary to present a well deserved hearing officer to the society. Proper training of hearing officer is necessary to maintain law and order in the society.

  3. I believe the correct citation to the new code is 20 U.S.C. s 1415 (f)(3)(A), rather than s 615. Great blog!

    1. A lot of us old timers use 615 for 1415 because we learned the old citations!

      Thanks for the comment,