An analysis of decisions from Texas impartial due process hearings involving handicapped children, 1978-1981



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The subject of this study was the Texas system of impartial due process hearings as required by The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, Public Law 94-142. The primary purpose of the study was the identification of the tendency of impartial hearing officers in Texas to rule in favor of parents or school districts when presented with major issues of controversy in the education of handicapped children. The study intended its findings to benefit special education administrators in Texas in two ways. First, knowledge of the outcomes of past decisions from impartial due process hearings would assist administrators confronted with the prospect of such a hearing in determining the likelihood of their receiving favorable rulings from the hearing officers. Second, the findings of the study add to statutory and case law, rules and regulations, and third-party decisions, which are gradually clarifying public education's responsiblity to the handicapped. The study identified major issues of controversy in the education of handicapped children by reviewing recent case law involving handicapped students and the decisions of Texas hearing officers from 1978 through June of 1981. It then determined the tendency of Texas hearing officers to rule in favor of the parents of handicapped children or school districts when presented with disputes involving those major issues of controversy. The study's findings indicated that between 1978 and 1981, 70 percent of Texas impartial due process hearings involving handicapped children resulted in favorable rulings for school districts. The most common dispute brought before Texas hearing officers was private school placement at public education's expense, which was sought by parents and opposed by school districts. Among its other findings, the study determined that the hearing officers made the following rulings when presented with certain major issues of controversy in the education of handicapped children: (a) They generally upheld school district refusals to pay for private residential placement for emotionally disturbed students. (b) They ordered school districts to pay private school tuition for handicapped children only when the private schools offered a necessary service which was unavailable in the public schools. (c) They did not require handicapped students to be placed in less restrictive settings when school districts were offering appropriate educational services to those children. (d) They permitted districts to transfer handicapped children from one campus to another. (e) They denied parents' requests to be reimbursed by school districts for expenses they incurred in providing private educational services to their handicapped children. (f) They required districts to evaluate handicapped children in strict accordance with state education agency policies and procedures. The study concluded that while recent federal statutes and case law have expanded public education’s obligation to the handicapped, the parameters of that responsibility are still being interpreted and clarified. The impartial due process hearing system offers the special education administrator one means by which previously unanswered questions regarding the limits of public education’s responsibilities to the handicapped may be answered.



Children with disabilities, Legal status, laws, etc, Texas