November 14, 2005

Families Bear Burden of Proof in Special Ed Challenges

Nov. 14, 2005
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled today that parents who demand better special education programs for their children have the burden of proof in the challenges.

The 6-2 decision, written by retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, said that if parents challenge a program, they have the burden in an administrative
hearing of showing that the program is insufficient. If schools bring a complaint, the burden rests with them, O'Connor wrote.

The ruling is a loss for a Maryland family that contested the special education program designed for their son with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The case required the court to interpret the Individuals With Disabilities Act, which does not specifically say whether parents or schools have the burden of proof in disputes.

The family's attorney, William Hurd, unsuccessfully argued that when there are disagreements between schools and parents, education officials have better access to relevant facts and witnesses.

Chief Justice John Roberts had recused himself from the case, because attorneys from his old law firm represented the school district.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer wrote separate dissents.

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