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DISTRICTS CAN’T APPEAL SPECIAL ED COMPLIANCE ORDERS TO COMMISSIONER

Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy has flatly rejected the effort of Lenape Regional High School District to have her Office review special education complaint investigation decisions. Lenape had been trying to add another layer of legal appeals and hearings to the State’s process of investigating and correcting complaints by parents of children with disabilities.

The decision – Lenape Regional High School District Board of Education v. New Jersey State Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs – comes in a case where a parent had complained twice to the State about problems with Lenape’s special education program, including its failure to provide necessary assistive technology to her son. In response, the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) conducted investigations, found the district non-compliant, and ordered corrective action. Lenape then asked the Commissioner to reverse both OSEP determinations against the district.

The Commissioner agreed with the position, advanced by ELC on behalf of the parent and accepted by an Administrative Judge, that OSEP decisions under the federal Individual with Disabilities Education Act’s (IDEA) complaint investigation procedures are final agency decisions. While parents who disagree with OSEP have the right under IDEA to request a formal due process hearing, school districts have no further right of administrative appeal. Accordingly, the Commissioner dismissed all of Lenape’s appeals pending before the agency.

"We’re pleased that the Commissioner has protected the right of parents and students to a streamlined, less costly administrative review process, as intended by IDEA," stated ELC Senior Attorney Elizabeth Athos. Ms. Athos represented the parent in this case.

For further information, contact Elizabeth Athos at eathos@edlawcenter.org or (973) 624-1815, ext. 20.