Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lessons from the CADRE Symposium Part IV #Restorative Remedies

One of the things that I do is train hearing officers, mediators and state complaint investigators for state education departments. I also have a large network of fellow hearing officers, mediators and state complaint investigators. We often compare notes.

A matter that hearing officers and investigators often find challenging is fashioning appropriate remedies or relief in cases where the parent or student prevails. The hearing officer and investigator have broad power to fashion appropriate equitable relief when IDEA has been violated. Forrest Grove Sch Dist v. TA 557 U.S. 230, 129 S.Ct. 2484, 52 IDELR 151 (U.S.  6/22/9). However,  reimbursement requires balancing three factors, and compensatory education can be difficult to calculate when the parties rarely offer evidence of educational harm

Crafting a remedy is particularly difficult in cases involving procedural violations where compensatory education may not be called for or where reimbursement is not appropriate. Also the relief rarely affects the ongoing relationship issues that are so important when considering the future education of a child.

In a recent post (which you can review here), I described a great panel session at the CADRE Symposium last month that discussed Restorative Justice and its application to special education. One of the panelists on that panel was a state investigator who had issued a state complaint decision requiring the school district, that had failed to comply with IDEA discipline requirements, to provide training to its staff - including training on alternatives to traditional discipline- including restorative justice. The remedy was appropriate given the violation, and it is a creative way to address the problem.  You can and should read the state complaint investigator's decision here.

I believe that in the near future, you will see more hearing officers and investigators fashioning relief where the parents win that requires restorative justice in various ways, whether in conjunction with compensatory education or reimbursement or not.  Unlike other remedies, restorative remedies or training in restorative justice has the potential to help heal the relationship issues so often present in these cases. I believe that this would be a good thing for children with disabilities.

Have any of you seen other examples of restorative relief in a hearing officer decision or complaint investigator report? If you do come across other  decisions with this type of relief, please send them to me.

What do you think about restorative remedies?

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