Also known as a “due process hearing,” impartial hearings in special education are legal proceedings
available to parents who disagree with their child’s IEP. If a parent believes that their child’s IEP is
inappropriate and not meeting their child’s needs, the parent has the right to request an impartial
The process starts by the parents, or the parents’ attorney, filing a Due Process Complaint and
requesting an impartial hearing. The Complaint should explain, in detail, why the parents disagree with
the child’s IEP. For example, if the child has not made meaningful progress in math, reading, or ELA, the
Complaint should explain the lack of progress. The Complaint should also include references to any
evidence that may help prove the parents’ case.
Once the Complaint has been filed with the school district, a neutral Impartial Hearing Officer (“IHO”)
will be assigned to the case. The IHO will usually be an attorney who is experienced in special education
law. The IHO will serve as a neutral judge during the impartial hearing.
If a settlement is not reached prior to the hearing, the hearing will provide the parents with an
opportunity to present their case to the IHO. Similar to a typical court proceeding, the parents (or, their
attorney) will present evidence, examine witnesses, and make arguments, to try and prove that the
child’s IEP is not appropriate. Typically, the parents will also try to prove that the child should be
provided with certain additional, or different, special education supports and/or services. One common
example is when parents believe their child should be placed into a smaller class size with a higher
student to teacher ratio, but the school district’s IEP may instead place the child into a large general
education classroom. In this scenario, the parents have to argue their case to the IHO to try and prove
their child’s special needs necessitate placement in the smaller classroom.
After the impartial hearing has concluded, the IHO will render a written decision. The parties (the
parents and the school district) are then required by law to adhere to the IHO’s decision. The IHO can
grant parents many different types of relief. For example, the IHO may order the school district to place
the child into a smaller classroom, an alternative school, or even a residential school. The IHO can also
order the school district to provide the child with certain additional services and/or supports, such as
assistive technology devices or specialized reading instruction.
If you are in a dispute with your local school district regarding the appropriateness of your child’s IEP,
contact the Law Office of Jacob D. Verchereau to determine if you should consider pursuing an impartial