What Information is Required for a Due Process Complaint to be Sufficient?
In order to initiate due process proceedings against a local educational agency (LEA) or school district, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a Parent or their attorney must file a Due Process Complaint with the appropriate tribunal. In California the appropriate tribunal is the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Compliance with the requirements prevents vague and confusing complaints and ensures that the respondent has adequate information to be able to respond appropriately and prepare for resolution session and mediation. However, the requirements of a sufficient complaint are easy to comply with and should be liberally construed.
The purpose of the IDEA is to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education and to protect the rights of those children and their parents. A party has the right to present a complaint "with respect to any matter relating to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of a free appropriate public education to such child." Under the requirements of section 1415(b)(7)(A), a complaint is sufficient if it contains: (1) a description of the nature of the problem of the child relating to the proposed initiation or change concerning the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to the child; (2) facts relating to the problem; and (3) a proposed resolution of the problem to the extent known and available to the party at the time. A complaint provides adequate information when provides "an awareness and understanding of the issues forming the basis of the complaint."
Moreover, in Alexandra R. v. Brookline School District, it was ruled that pleading requirements should be liberally construed in light of the broad remedial purposes of the IDEA and the relative informality of the due process hearings it authorizes. The sufficiency of a complaint lies within the discretion of the Administrative Law Judge. The ALJ looks at the facts, issues, and resolution to determine whether there is enough information to provide the respondent notice of the basis for the complaint.
Therefore, when filing a due process complaint against the district, note the requirements to include the name, address of residence, and name of the school of the child; a description of the nature of the problem relating to the proposed initiation or change; and a proposed resolution of the problem. Note that complaints are limited to matters relating to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of a free appropriate public education to such child. The Hearing Officer in Student v. Huntington Beach City School District ruled in favor of District's insufficiency notice noting that one of Student's claims was insufficient "because the facts alleged [were] insufficient to establish the nature of the problem as it relates to the proposed initiation or change concerning the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of FAPE to the child."
In the event a district files a notice of insufficiency of claim, refer to the aforementioned laws when filing an opposition.
By, Elizabeth Curtis, Esq.