What happens after I file a request for a hearing?
You will receive a letter that DPH received your complaint. If you do not receive a letter, please call Mary Dennehy-Colorusso at 978-851-7261, ext. 4016.
A hearing officer will contact you and the EI program to set up a pre-hearing conference call. The hearing officer will clarify the issues that will be part of the hearing, explain the process and schedule hearing dates.
You may choose to have someone (an attorney) represent you and your child at the hearing or you may represent yourself. DPH will provide you with a list of low-cost advocacy services.
The Bureau of Special Education Appeals has information for parents who decide to represent themselves. This information explains the process and what you need to do to prepare for the hearing.
What happens at a due process hearing?
A due process hearing is a formal process where each side makes an opening statement, presents their argument, calls and cross-examines witnesses, and submits documents as evidence to a hearing officer. The hearing officer makes a decision about the disagreement.
You will need to prepare for the hearing. You will need to decide if someone will represent you. You will take part in pre-hearing conferences calls, make copies of documents, and prepare a question list and your arguments.
What are the qualifications of the hearing officer?
The hearing officers are attorneys from the Bureau of Special Education Appeals. They are not employed by DPH or the EI program. They have experience conducting hearings and knowledge of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Their role is to listen and review all the evidence from each side and make a decision on the disagreement. .
How long does the process take?
The hearing officer will hold the hearing and send a written decision 30-days from the date you send the request to DPH and the EI program. The hearing officer may extend the 30-day timeline if you or the program ask for an extension.
What about my child’s IFSP services? Do they stop because of the hearing?
No. The IFSP services that you gave written consent for are provided unless you and the EI team agree to something different. This is known as “stay put”. It means that the child’s last agreed upon services will “stay put” (not change) until the hearing officer issues a decision.
Do I have other rights?
Yes. As a parent, you have the right to:
- Present evidence
- Question and cross-examine witnesses
- Only allow evidence provided to you at least 5 days before the hearing
- Receive a written or electronic copy transcript upon request
- Choose to have an attorney or advocate represent you and your child
- Represent yourself and your child (known as “pro se”)
- Receive a written decision from the hearing officer
- File an appeal in state or federal court within 90 days of the decision if you disagree with the decision
- Have the hearing open or closed to the public
- Have your child who is the subject of the hearing at the hearing
- Have an interpreter if needed.
Can I appeal the decision if I do not agree with the report?
Yes. You must file an appeal in state court within 90-days of receiving the decision.
Can I withdraw my complaint after I have filed it?
Yes. You must contact the hearing officer to tell him/her of your decision to withdraw the hearing request. Your request to withdraw must happen before the hearing officer’s decision is sent.