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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Pandemic Litigation

Bianca Quilantan at Politico Education:
Special education is the most active area of litigation for school districts, according to education groups. About 29 percent of schools were “worried that special education litigation would consume much of their time and resources in the 2020-21 school year,” a survey from the Association of Educational Service Agencies found.

— But the number of complaints filed is actually down during the pandemic, said Lehigh University professor emeritus Perry Zirkel, who has been analyzing the complaints.

— State complaint decisions and due process hearing decisions have been increasingly rolling out. In his summary of the decisions, Zirkel found that parents are largely looking for two forms of relief: compensatory education and fixing the problem for the future. But “we find that overall, districts win about twice as many cases as parents,” he said.

— So far, the majority of cases have resulted in corrective action, Zirkel said, and many due process hearing decisions have ordered specific and direct compensatory education or reimbursement to cover in-person private arrangements. The general pattern is that “both complaint investigators and hearing officers say [free appropriate public education] does apply, but they vary in their strictness,” he said.