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Hearing Officers in the Bureau of Special Education Appeals Did Not Consistently Document Case Postponements.

Without proper documentation related to postponements, BSEA cannot ensure that they have been issued for good cause.

Table of Contents

Overview

Hearing officers in the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) did not consistently document case postponements. Without proper documentation related to postponements, BSEA cannot ensure that they have been issued for good cause.

We selected a sample of 40 cases from a population of 293 cases that began after BSEA revised its Hearing Rules for Special Education Appeals, effective March 1, 2019, in response to findings reported by the US Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), and determined the following:

  • Five case files had unexplained gaps in the record arising from a lack of written rulings on postponement requests.
  • In seven cases, hearing officers did not issue written rulings in response to written requests for postponement. In three of these cases, the officers issued new notices of hearing4 instead; in the other four cases, they did not issue any response.
  • In three cases, hearing officers did not document requests to file written closing arguments.

Authoritative Guidance

Rule III.A.3 of the revised BSEA Hearing Rules for Special Education Appeals states,

A Hearing Officer may grant an extension of the 45-day timeline at the written request of a party and only for good cause. The Hearing Officer will issue a written ruling on the request, documenting the length of the extension.

Rule IX.E states, “A request to submit written closing arguments shall constitute a postponement request which must be documented and acted upon in accordance with Rule III.”

Reasons for Issues

The revised BSEA Hearing Rules for Special Education Appeals were issued in a memorandum; however, BSEA did not provide training on documentation requirements. These instances went undetected because of a lack of agency monitoring of case files.

Recommendations

  1. BSEA should ensure that hearing officers are properly trained on documentation requirements.
  2. BSEA management should monitor case progress to ensure that hearing officers document all postponements.

Auditee’s Response

The BSEA does its best to meet all OSEP directives and will develop a more consistent approach to the supervision and monitoring of form usage for postponement requests and responsive orders.

Auditor’s Reply

Based on its response, DALA is taking measures to address our concerns on this matter.

4.     A notice of hearing is a simple document BSEA sends out after a party requests a hearing, indicating the date of the hearing and the dates of certain pre-hearing deadlines, such as that of a pre-hearing conference. An updated notice of hearing sent after a postponement request does not address the basis for the change of hearing date. In contrast, written postponement rulings are typically paragraph-long orders discussing why a party requested a postponement, whether the other party consents or objects, and the hearing officer’s decision on the merits of the request, along with a statement that both parties understand that this will delay the issuance of the decision.

Date published: April 7, 2021
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