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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Burden of Proof-3 Reasons to shift it and 3 things you can do for children

Why do I support shifting the burden of proof in IDEA hearings to schools?
My Top 3 reasons:
1. Schools write the IEP, schools determine placements, schools are full of experts, schools have resources, schools hold the records, schools control information.
2. Parents cannot stop the School's actions in the IEP meeting. Parents must request a hearing to stop an inappropriate placement.
3. Parents do not know how to effectively navigate a due process hearing, and must pay attorneys and experts. Parents should not have to compromise the child's education because they cannot afford a hearing.

Here's a great COPAA article on the topic-

WHAT can YOU do? Top 3 actions:
1. Sign this petition.

2. Testify.
In writing or in person!
Link to bills-
3. Call and write your representative!

Dear Delegate __________:

I am writing to ask you to support HB 1286 and SB 691. HB 1286 / SB 691 would place the burden of proof on school districts in special education due process hearings under the IDEA. Burden of proof on school districts has the support of many individuals and organizations, including the Maryland PTAs and MCCPTA.

I am asking you to support this bill because fairness dictates that school districts, not parents, carry the burden of proof in due process. As it is, parents of children with disabilities are working harder than most parents will ever know to meet their children’s special needs. Add to this the fact that these same parents are routinely outnumbered, overwhelmed, and outspent by school districts that write the IEPs, control the educational records, and employ the witnesses they call. Thus, asking parents to bear the burden of proof through an unfamiliar legal process, when many parents cannot afford an attorney, against an entire school district is too much and unfair.

I realize HB 1161 has been introduced to set up a commission to study special education access and equity in Maryland. While such a commission may prove valuable in different ways, I am concerned that the opportunity to address the inequities of burden of proof on parents will be missed, and parents will continue to bear this unfair burden. Parents cannot wait for a study to finally have burden of proof placed on the school districts - after eight years of bearing this burden, we know it’s too much and unfair. This proposed commission is not a substitute for acting now on burden of proof and putting it where it belongs, on the school districts.

Thank you for your support.

Very truly yours,


ADDRESS (street, city, state, zip)

P.S. If you want to send an old-fashioned envelope-and-stamp letter:
--go here:
--This gives you a list of all Maryland legislators.
--Click on a legislator's name to see his/her real-world mailing address.

If you don't know what district you live in:

· go to ("Maryland State Archives: Who Are Your Elected Officials")

· type in your street address

· click "find"

· Voila--a list of your Annapolis senator & delegates--AND it tells you what your district number is for Maryland! (Also includes your Washington DC senator & representative, your Congressional district #, and your state governor & other top officials.)

This bill is in the House the Ways and Means Committee - Please Email These Members As Well As Your Delegates - We Want This Bill to Go to Floor for a Full Vote!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing all this information. These bills are critical. The school districts hold all the cards and expect parents to meet burden of proof. It’s just plain wrong. Under these circumstances, parents can’t make a meaningful presentation to the hearing officer. Which is exactly the opposite of what the IDEA intends, of what Congress intended when it provided due process.

    It’s not just parents and children who will benefit from a fairer process, but also teachers. As one example, as we mainstream more children, we need to make sure the children, and hence, their teachers - have the proper supports, such as para-educator support, in place.