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Seeking Organizations & Informal Groups to Sign-on: Support IDEA Fairness Restoration Act

Posted Mar 24 2011 12:39pm

From Wrightslaw: Seeking Organizations & Informal Groups to Sign-on: Support IDEA Fairness Restoration Act .

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocate’s (COPAA) and the Autism National Committee (AutCom) have drafted a letter to present to legislators in support of allowing families to be reimbursed for expert witness fees when they prevail in due process hearings.

They are looking for sign-ons to the letter from formal and informal groups:

Organizational sign-ons are welcome from disability organizations and groups, formal or informal; informal networks of attorneys and advocates and others; parent support groups; health, civil rights, and other related organizations or groups; nonprofit organizations, public interest law firms and organizations, associations, and any other supportive groups.

Here is the letter:

We, the undersigned organizations, urge Congress to pass the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, S.613 and H.R. 1208. The bill would overturn the Supreme Court decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy by restoring Congress’ original intent in enacting the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986 that parents who prevail in administrative hearings and court actions be allowed to recover expert witness fees as well as attorneys’ fees.

Under the IDEA, schools are required to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to children with disabilities. Congress recognized long ago that there will be times when parents and school districts differ as to what constitutes FAPE and that in those situations parents should be allowed to seek a hearing before an impartial administrative hearing officer. In those hearings parents must provide testimony from such expert witnesses as psychologists, doctors, therapists, and educational experts to prove that FAPE was not provided to their children. However, nearly 36% of children with disabilities live in families earning less than $25,000 a year; over two-thirds in families earn less than $50,000 a year. For both low and middle income parents, the right to due process is real only if the fees of these experts are shifted when they prevail.

Prevailing plaintiffs in ADA, Title VII, and other civil rights have the statutory right to recover expert witness fees. We ask Congress to take action to restore its original intent and provide this same right to parents who prevail in IDEA cases.

Nor would this bill be burdensome for school districts. Parents proceed to litigation only as a last resort. In 2003, the GAO reported that there were only 5 hearings per 10,000 special education students. Only parents who prevail could recover fees; parents who do not prevail could not.

We ask Congress to pass the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, S. 613 and H.R. 1208. Restoring Congress’ original intent the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act is important to ensure that parents are not deprived of their right to due process because they cannot afford expert witnesses. Thank you very much for your support.

Please contact either of us if you have questions. Thank you very much for your support.

Jessica Butler, Congressional Affairs Coordinator, Autism National Committee (jessica@jnba.net)
Bob Berlow, Co-chair, COPAA Government Relations Committee (govrelations@copaa.org)

Please don’t hesitate to SHARE THIS with others.

To sign-on you must email your name, the name of your organization or group, and your city, state, zip code, and email address to – jessica@jnba.net (Jessica Butler, Congressional Affairs Coordinator, Autism National Committee)

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