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Virginia Administrative Code
Title 8. Education
Agency 20. State Board Of Education
Chapter 81. Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia
4/15/2021

8VAC20-81-210. Due process hearing.

A. The Virginia Department of Education provides for an impartial special education due process hearing system to resolve disputes between parents and local educational agencies with respect to any matter relating to the: (§ 22.1-214 of the Code of Virginia; 34 CFR 300.121 and 34 CFR 300.507 through 34 CFR 300.518)

1. Identification of a child with a disability, including initial eligibility, any change in categorical identification, and any partial or complete termination of special education and related services;

2. Evaluation of a child with a disability (including disagreements regarding payment for an independent educational evaluation);

3. Educational placement and services of the child; and

4. Provision of a free appropriate public education to the child.

B. The Virginia Department of Education uses the impartial hearing officer system that is administered by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

C. The Virginia Department of Education uses the list of hearing officers maintained by the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia and its Rules of Administration for the names of individuals to serve as special education hearing officers. In accordance with the Rules of Administration, the Virginia Department of Education provides the Office of the Executive Secretary annually the names of those special education hearing officers who are recertified to serve in this capacity.

D. The Virginia Department of Education establishes procedures for:

1. Providing special education hearing officers specialized training on the federal and state special education law and regulations, as well as associated laws and regulations impacting children with disabilities, knowledge of disabilities and special education programs, case law, management of hearings, and decision writing.

2. Establishing the number of special education hearing officers who shall be certified to hear special education due process cases.

a. The Virginia Department of Education shall review annually its current list of special education hearing officers and determine the recertification status of each hearing officer.

b. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this subdivision, individuals on the special education hearing officers list on July 7, 2009, shall be subject to the Virginia Department of Education's review of recertification status based on past and current performance.

c. The ineligibility of a special education hearing officer continuing to serve in this capacity shall be based on the factors listed in subdivision 3 c of this subsection.

3. Evaluation, continued eligibility, and disqualification requirements of special education hearing officers:

a. The Virginia Department of Education shall establish procedures for evaluating special education hearing officers.

b. The first review of the recertification status of each special education hearing officer will be conducted within a reasonable time following July 7, 2009.

c. In considering whether a special education hearing officer will be certified or recertified, the Virginia Department of Education shall determine the number of hearing officers needed to hear special education due process cases, and consider matters related to the special education hearing officer's adherence to the factors in subdivision H 5 of this section, as well as factors involving the special education hearing officer's:

(1) Issuing an untimely decision, or failing to render decision within regulatory time frames;

(2) Unprofessional demeanor;

(3) Inability to conduct an orderly hearing;

(4) Inability to conduct a hearing in conformity with the federal and state laws and regulations regarding special education;

(5) Improper ex parte contacts;

(6) Violations of due process requirements;

(7) Mental or physical incapacity;

(8) Unjustified refusal to accept assignments;

(9) Failure to complete training requirements as outlined by the Virginia Department of Education;

(10) Professional disciplinary action; or

(11) Issuing a decision that contains:

(a) Inaccurate appeal rights of the parents; or

(b) No controlling case or statutory authority to support the findings.

d. When a special education hearing officer has been denied certification or recertification based on the factors in subdivision 3 c of this section, the Virginia Department of Education shall notify the special education hearing officer and the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia that the hearing officer is no longer certified to serve as a special education hearing officer.

Upon notification of denial of certification or recertification, the hearing officer may, within 10 calendar days of the postmark of the letter of notification, request of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, or his designee, reconsideration of the decision. Such request shall be in writing and shall contain any additional information desired for consideration. The Superintendent of Public Instruction, or his designee, shall render a decision within 10 calendar days of receipt of the request for reconsideration. The Virginia Department of Education shall notify the hearing officer and the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia of its decision.

4. Reviewing and analyzing the decisions of special education hearing officers, and the requirement for special education hearing officers to reissue decisions, relative to correct use of citations, readability, and other errors such as incorrect names or conflicting data, but not errors of law that are reserved for appellate review.

E. Filing the request for a due process hearing. If any of the following provisions are challenged by one of the parties in a due process hearing, the special education hearing officer determines the outcome of the case going forward.

1. The request for due process shall allege a violation that happened not more than two years before the parent(s) or the local educational agency knew or should have known about the alleged action that forms the basis of the request for due process. This timeline does not apply if the request for a due process hearing could not be filed because: (34 CFR 300.507(a) and 34 CFR 300.511(e) and (f))

a. The local educational agency specifically misrepresented that it had resolved the issues identified in the request; or

b. The local educational agency withheld information that it was required to provide under the IDEA.

2. A local educational agency may initiate a due process hearing to resolve a disagreement when the parent(s) withholds or refuses consent for an evaluation or an action that requires parental consent to provide services to a student who has been identified as a student with a disability or who is suspected of having a disability. However, a local educational agency may not initiate a due process hearing to resolve parental withholding or refusing consent for the initial provision of special education to the child. (34 CFR 300.300(a)(3)(i) and 34 CFR 300.300(b)(3))

3. In circumstances involving disciplinary actions, the parent(s) of a student with a disability may request an expedited due process hearing if the parent(s) disagrees with: (34 CFR 300.532)

a. The manifestation determination regarding whether the child's behavior was a manifestation of the child's disability; or

b. Any decision regarding placement under the disciplinary procedures.

4. In circumstances involving disciplinary actions, the local educational agency may request an expedited hearing if the school division believes that maintaining the current placement of the child is substantially likely to result in injury to the child or others. (34 CFR 300.532)

F. Procedure for requesting a due process hearing. (34 CFR 300.504(a)(2), 34 CFR 300.507, 34 CFR 300.508 and 34 CFR 300.511)

1. A request for a hearing shall be made in writing to the Virginia Department of Education. A copy of that request shall be delivered contemporaneously by the requesting party to the other party.

a. If the local educational agency initiates the due process hearing, the local educational agency shall advise the parent(s) and the Virginia Department of Education in writing of this action.

b. If the request is received solely by the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Department of Education shall immediately notify the local educational agency by telephone or by facsimile and forward a copy of the request to the local educational agency as soon as reasonably possible, including those cases where mediation is requested.

c. The request for a hearing shall be kept confidential by the local educational agency and the Virginia Department of Education.

2. A party may not have a due process hearing until that party or the attorney representing the party files a notice that includes:

a. The name of the child;

b. The address of the residence of the child (or available contact information in the case of a homeless child);

c. The name of the school the child is attending;

d. A description of the nature of the child's problem relating to the proposed or refused initiation or change, including facts relating to the problem; and

e. A proposed resolution of the problem to the extent known and available to the parent(s) at the time of the notice.

3. The due process notice shall be deemed sufficient unless the party receiving the notice notifies the special education hearing officer and the other party in writing that the receiving party believes the notice has not met the requirements listed in subdivision 2 of this subsection.

4. The party receiving the notice may challenge the sufficiency of the due process notice by providing a notification of the challenge to the special education hearing officer within 15 calendar days of receipt the due process request. A copy of the challenge shall be sent to the other party and the Virginia Department of Education.

5. Within five calendar days of receipt of the notification challenging the sufficiency of the due process notice, the special education hearing officer shall determine on the face of the notice whether the notification meets the requirements in subdivision 2 of this subsection.

6. The special education hearing officer has the discretionary authority to permit either party to raise issues at the hearing that were not raised in the notice by the party requesting the due process hearing in light of particular facts and circumstances of the case.

7. The local educational agency shall upon receipt of a request for a due process hearing, inform the parent(s) of the availability of mediation described in 8VAC20-81-190 and of any free or low-cost legal and other relevant services available in the area. The local educational agency also shall provide the parent(s) with a copy of the procedural safeguards notice upon receipt of the parent's(s') first request for a due process hearing in a school year.

G. Amendment of due process notice. (34 CFR 300.508(d)(3))

1. A party may amend its due process notice only if:

a. The other party consents in writing to such amendment and is given the opportunity to resolve the complaint through a resolution meeting; or

b. The special education hearing officer grants permission, except that the special education hearing officer may only grant such permission at any time not later than five calendar days before a due process hearing occurs.

2. The applicable timeline for a due process hearing under this part shall begin again at the time the party files an amended notice, including the timeline for resolution sessions.

H. Assignment of the special education hearing officer. (34 CFR 300.511)

1. Within five business days of receipt of the request for a nonexpedited hearing and three business days of receipt of the request for an expedited hearing:

a. The local educational agency shall contact the Supreme Court of Virginia for the appointment of the special education hearing officer.

b. The local educational agency contacts the special education hearing officer to confirm availability, and upon acceptance, notifies the special education hearing officer in writing, with a copy to the parent(s) and the Virginia Department of Education of the appointment.

2. Upon request, the Virginia Department of Education shall share information on the qualifications of the special education hearing officer with the parent(s) and the local educational agency.

3. Either party has five business days after notice of the appointment is received or the basis for the objection becomes known to the party to object to the appointment by presenting a request for consideration of the objection to the special education hearing officer.

a. If the special education hearing officer's ruling on the objection does not resolve the objection, then within five business days of receipt of the ruling the party may proceed to file an affidavit with the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia. The failure to file a timely objection serves as a waiver of objections that were known or should have been known to the party.

b. The filing of a request for removal or disqualification shall not stay the proceedings or filing requirements in any way except that the hearing may not be conducted until the Supreme Court of Virginia issues a decision on the request in accordance with its procedures.

c. If a special education hearing officer recuses himself or is otherwise disqualified, the Supreme Court of Virginia shall ensure that another special education hearing officer is promptly appointed.

4. A hearing shall not be conducted by a person who:

a. Has a personal or professional interest that would conflict with that person's objectivity in the hearing;

b. Is an employee of the Virginia Department of Education or the local educational agency that is involved in the education and care of the child. A person who otherwise qualifies to conduct a hearing is not an employee of the agency solely because he is paid by the agency to serve as a special education hearing officer; or

c. Represents schools or parents in any matter involving special education or disability rights, or is an employee of any parent rights agency or organization, or disability rights agency or organization.

5. A special education hearing officer shall:

a. Possess knowledge of, and the ability to understand, the provisions of the Act, federal and state regulations pertaining to the Act, and legal interpretations of the Act by federal and state courts;

b. Possess the knowledge and ability to conduct hearings in accordance with appropriate, standard legal practice; and

c. Possess the knowledge and ability to render and write decisions in accordance with appropriate, standard legal practice.

I. Duration of the special education hearing officer's authority.

1. The special education hearing officer's authority begins with acceptance of the case assignment.

2. The special education hearing officer has authority over a due process proceeding until:

a. Issuance of the special education hearing officer's decision; or

b. The Supreme Court of Virginia revokes such authority by removing or disqualifying the special education hearing officer.

J. Child's status during administrative or judicial proceedings. (34 CFR 300.518; 34 CFR 300.533)

1. Except as provided in 8VAC20-81-160, during the pendency of any administrative or judicial proceeding, the child shall remain in the current educational placement unless the parent(s) of the child and local educational agency agree otherwise;

2. If the proceeding involves an application for initial admission to public school, the child, with the consent of the parent(s), shall be placed in the public school until the completion of all the proceedings;

3. If the decision of a special education hearing officer agrees with the child's parent(s) that a change of placement is appropriate, that placement shall be treated as an agreement between the local educational agency and the parent(s) for the purposes of subdivision 1 of this section;

4. The child's placement during administrative or judicial proceedings regarding a disciplinary action by the local educational agency shall be in accordance with 8VAC20-81-160;

5. The child's placement during administrative or judicial proceedings regarding a placement for noneducational reasons by a Comprehensive Services Act team shall be in accordance with 8VAC20-81-150; or

6. If the proceeding involves an application for initial services under Part B of the Act from Part C and the child is no longer eligible for Part C services because the child has turned three, the school division is not required to provide the Part C services that the child had been receiving. If the child is found eligible for special education and related services under Part B and the parent consents to the initial provision of special education and related services, the school division shall provide those special education and related services that are not in dispute between the agency and the school division.

K. Rights of parties in the hearing. (§ 22.1-214 C of the Code of Virginia; 34 CFR 300.512)

1. Any party to a hearing has the right to:

a. Be accompanied and advised by counsel and by individuals with special knowledge or training with respect to the problems of children with disabilities;

b. Present evidence and confront, cross-examine, and request that the special education hearing officer compel the attendance of witnesses;

c. Move that the special education hearing officer prohibit the introduction of any evidence at the hearing that has not been disclosed to that party at least five business days before the hearing;

d. Obtain a written or, at the option of the parent(s), electronic, verbatim record of the hearing; and

e. Obtain written or, at the option of the parent(s), electronic findings of fact and decisions.

2. Additional disclosure of information shall be given as follows:

a. At least five business days prior to a hearing, each party shall disclose to all other parties all evaluations completed by that date and recommendations based on the offering party's evaluations that the party intends to use at the hearing; and

b. A special education hearing officer may bar any party that fails to comply with subdivision 2 a of this subsection from introducing the relevant evaluation or recommendation at the hearing without the consent of the other party.

3. Parental rights at hearings.

a. A parent(s) involved in a hearing shall be given the right to:

(1) Have the child who is the subject of the hearing present; and

(2) Open the hearing to the public.

b. The record of the hearing and the findings of fact and decisions shall be provided at no cost to the parent(s), even though the applicable appeal period has expired.

L. Responsibilities of the Virginia Department of Education. The Virginia Department of Education shall: (34 CFR 300.513(d), 34 CFR 300.509 and 34 CFR 300.511)

1. Maintain and monitor the due process hearing system and establish procedures for its operation;

2. Ensure that the local educational agency discharges its responsibilities in carrying out the requirements of state and federal statutes and regulations;

3. Develop and disseminate a model form to be used by the parent(s) to give notice in accordance with the contents of the notice listed in subdivision F 2 of this section;

4. Maintain and ensure that each local educational agency maintains a list of persons who serve as special education hearing officers. This list shall include a statement of the qualifications of each special education hearing officer;

5. Provide findings and decisions of all due process hearings to the state special education advisory committee and to the public after deleting any personally identifiable information;

6. Review and approve implementation plans filed by local educational agencies pursuant to hearing officer decisions in hearings that have been fully adjudicated; and

7. Ensure that noncompliance findings identified through due process or court action are corrected as soon as possible, but in no case later than one year from identification.

M. Responsibilities of the parent. In a due process hearing, the parent(s) shall: (34 CFR 300.512)

1. Decide whether the hearing will be open to the public;

2. Make timely and necessary responses to the special education hearing officer personally or through counsel or other authorized representatives;

3. Assist in clarifying the issues for the hearing and participate in the pre-hearing conference scheduled by the special education hearing officer;

4. Provide information to the special education hearing officer to assist in the special education hearing officer's administration of a fair and impartial hearing;

5. Provide documents and exhibits necessary for the hearing within required timelines; and

6. Comply with timelines, orders, and requests of the special education hearing officer.

N. Responsibilities of the local educational agency. The local educational agency shall: (34 CFR 300.504, 34 CFR 300.506, 34 CFR 300.507 and 34 CFR 300.511)

1. Maintain a list of the persons serving as special education hearing officers. This list shall include a statement of the qualifications of each special education hearing officer;

2. Upon request, provide the parent(s) a form for use to provide notice that they are requesting a due process hearing;

3. Provide the parent(s) a copy of their procedural safeguards upon receipt of the parent's(s') first request for a due process hearing in a school year;

4. Inform the parent(s) at the time the request is made of the availability of mediation;

5. Inform the parent(s) of any free or low-cost legal and other relevant services if the parent(s) requests it, or anytime the parent(s) or the local educational agency initiates a hearing;

6. Assist the special education hearing officer, upon request, in securing the location, transcription, and recording equipment for the hearing;

7. Make timely and necessary responses to the special education hearing officer;

8. Assist in clarifying the issues for the hearing and participate in the pre-hearing conference scheduled by the special education hearing officer;

9. Upon request, provide information to the special education hearing officer to assist in the special education hearing officer's administration of a fair and impartial hearing;

10. Provide documents and exhibits necessary for the hearing within required timelines;

11. Comply with timelines, orders, and requests of the special education hearing officer;

12. Maintain a file, which is a part of the child's scholastic record, containing communications, exhibits, decisions, and mediation communications, except as prohibited by laws or regulations;

13. Forward all necessary communications to the Virginia Department of Education and parties as required;

14. Notify the Virginia Department of Education when a special education hearing officer's decision has been appealed to court by either the parent(s) or the local educational agency;

15. Forward the record of the due process proceeding to the appropriate court for any case that is appealed;

16. Develop and submit to the Virginia Department of Education an implementation plan, with copy to the parent(s), within 45 calendar days of the hearing officer's decision in hearings that have been fully adjudicated.

a. If the decision is appealed or the school division is considering an appeal and the decision is not an agreement by the hearing officer with the parent(s) that a change in placement is appropriate, then the decision and submission of implementation plan is held in abeyance pursuant to the appeal proceedings.

b. In cases where the decision is an agreement by the hearing officer with the parent(s) that a change in placement is appropriate, the hearing officer's decision must be implemented while the case is appealed and an implementation plan must be submitted by the local educational agency.

c. The implementation plan:

(1) Must be based upon the decision of the hearing officer;

(2) Shall include the revised IEP if the decision affects the child's educational program; and

(3) Shall contain the name and position of a case manager in the local educational agency charged with implementing the decision; and

17. Provide the Virginia Department of Education, upon request, with information and documentation that noncompliance findings identified through due process or court action are corrected as soon as possible but in no case later than one year from issuance of the special education hearing officer's decision.

O. Responsibilities of the special education hearing officer. The special education hearing officer shall: (34 CFR 300.511 through 34 CFR 300.513; and 34 CFR 300.532)

1. Within five business days of agreeing to serve as the special education hearing officer, secure a date, time, and location for the hearing that are convenient to both parties, and notify both parties to the hearing and the Virginia Department of Education, in writing, of the date, time, and location of the hearing.

2. Ascertain whether the parties will have attorneys or others assisting them at the hearing. The special education hearing officer shall send copies of correspondence to the parties or their attorneys.

3. Conduct a prehearing conference via a telephone conference call or in person unless the special education hearing officer deems such conference unnecessary. The prehearing conference may be used to clarify or narrow issues and determine the scope of the hearing. If a prehearing conference is not held, the special education hearing officer shall document in the written prehearing report to the Virginia Department of Education the reason for not holding the conference.

4. Upon request by one of the parties to schedule a prehearing conference, determine the scope of the conference and conduct the conference via telephone call or in person. If the special education hearing officer deems such conference unnecessary, the special education hearing officer shall document in writing to the parties, with copy to the Virginia Department of Education, the reason(s) for not holding the conference.

5. At the prehearing stage:

a. Discuss with the parties the possibility of pursuing mediation and review the options that may be available to settle the case;

b. Determine when an IDEA due process notice also indicates a Section 504 dispute, whether to hear both disputes in order to promote efficiency in the hearing process and avoid confusion about the status of the Section 504 dispute; and

c. Document in writing to the parties, with copy to the Virginia Department of Education, prehearing determinations including a description of the right to appeal the case directly to either a state or federal court.

6. Monitor the mediation process, if the parties agree to mediate, to ensure that mediation is not used to deny or delay the right to a due process hearing, that parental rights are protected, and that the hearing is concluded within regulatory timelines.

7. Ascertain from the parent(s) whether the hearing will be open to the public.

8. Ensure that the parties have the right to a written or, at the option of the parent(s), an electronic verbatim record of the proceedings and that the record is forwarded to the local educational agency for the file after making a decision.

9. Receive a list of witnesses and documentary evidence for the hearing (including all evaluations and related recommendations that each party intends to use at the hearing) no later than five business days prior to the hearing.

10. Ensure that the local educational agency has appointed a surrogate parent in accordance with 8VAC20-81-220 when the parent(s) or guardian is not available or cannot be located.

11. Ensure that an atmosphere conducive to fairness is maintained at all times in the hearing.

12. Not require the parties or their representatives to submit briefs as a condition of rendering a decision. The special education hearing officer may permit parties to submit briefs, upon the parties' request.

13. Base findings of fact and decisions solely upon the preponderance of the evidence presented at the hearing and applicable state and federal law and regulations.

14. Report findings of fact and decisions in writing to the parties and their attorneys and the Virginia Department of Education. If the hearing is an expedited hearing, the special education hearing officer may issue an oral decision at the conclusion of the hearing, followed by a written decision within 10 school days of the hearing being held.

15. Include in the written findings:

a. Findings of fact relevant to the issues that are determinative of the case;

b. Legal principles upon which the decision is based, including references to controlling case law, statutes, and regulations;

c. An explanation of the basis for the decision for each issue that is determinative of the case; and

d. If the special education hearing officer made findings that required relief to be granted, then an explanation of the relief granted may be included in the decision.

16. Subject to the procedural determinations described in subdivision 17 of this subsection, the decision made by a special education hearing officer shall be made on substantive grounds based on a determination of whether the child received a free appropriate public education.

17. In matters alleging a procedural violation, a special education hearing officer may find that a child did not receive a free appropriate public education only if the procedural inadequacies:

a. Impeded the child's right to a free appropriate public education;

b. Significantly impeded the parent's(s') opportunity to participate in the decision making process regarding the provision of a free appropriate public education to the parents' child; or

c. Caused a deprivation of educational benefits. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to preclude a special education hearing officer from ordering a local educational agency to comply with procedural requirements under 34 CFR 300.500 through 34 CFR 300.536.

18. Maintain a well-documented record and return the official record to the local educational agency upon conclusion of the case.

19. Determine in a hearing regarding a manifestation determination whether the local educational agency has demonstrated that the child's behavior was not a manifestation of the child's disability consistent with the requirements in 8VAC20-81-160.

P. Authority of the special education hearing officer. The special education hearing officer has the authority to: (§ 22.1-214 B of the Code of Virginia; 34 CFR 300.515, 34 CFR 300.512 and 34 CFR 300.532)

1. Exclude any documentary evidence that was not provided and any testimony of witnesses who were not identified at least five business days prior to the hearing;

2. Bar any party from introducing evaluations or recommendations at the hearing that have not been disclosed to all other parties at least five business days prior to the hearing without the consent of the other party;

3. Issue subpoenas requiring testimony or the productions of books, papers, and physical or other evidence:

a. The special education hearing officer shall rule on any party's motion to quash or modify a subpoena. The special education hearing officer shall issue the ruling in writing to all parties with copy to the Virginia Department of Education.

b. The special education hearing officer or a party may request an order of enforcement for a subpoena in the circuit court of the jurisdiction in which the hearing is to be held.

c. Any person so subpoenaed may petition the circuit court for a decision regarding the validity of such subpoena if the special education hearing officer does not quash or modify the subpoena after objection;

4. Administer an oath to witnesses testifying at a hearing and require all witnesses to testify under oath or affirmation when testifying at a hearing;

5. Stop hostile or irrelevant pursuits in questioning and require that the parties and their attorneys, advocates, or advisors comply with the special education hearing officer's rules and with relevant laws and regulations;

6. Excuse witnesses after they testify to limit the number of witnesses present at the same time or sequester witnesses during the hearing;

7. Refer the matter in dispute to a conference between the parties when informal resolution and discussion appear to be desirable and constructive. This action shall not be used to deprive the parties of their rights and shall be exercised only when the special education hearing officer determines that the best interests of the child will be served;

8. Require an independent educational evaluation of the child. This evaluation shall be at public expense and shall be conducted in accordance with 8VAC20-81-170;

9. a. At the request of either party for a nonexpedited hearing, grant specific extensions of time beyond the periods set out in this chapter, if in the best interest of the child. This action shall in no way be used to deprive the parties of their rights and shall be exercised only when the requesting party has provided sufficient information that the best interests of the child will be served by the grant of an extension. The special education hearing officer may grant such requests for cause, but not for personal attorney convenience. Changes in hearing dates or timeline extensions shall be noted in writing and sent to all parties and to the Virginia Department of Education.

b. In instances where neither party requests an extension of time beyond the period set forth in this chapter, and mitigating circumstances warrant an extension, the special education hearing officer shall review the specific circumstances and obtain the approval of the Virginia Department of Education to the extension;

10. Take action to move the case to conclusion, including dismissing the pending proceeding if either party refuses to comply in good faith with the special education hearing officer's orders;

11. Set guidelines regarding media coverage if the hearing is open to the public;

12. Enter a disposition as to each determinative issue presented for decision and identify and determine the prevailing party on each issue that is decided; and

13. Hold an expedited hearing when a parent of a child with a disability disagrees with any decision regarding a change in placement for a child who violates a code of student conduct, or a manifestation determination, or a local educational agency believes that maintaining the current placement of the child is substantially likely to result in injury to the child or others.

a. The hearing shall occur within 20 school days of the date the due process notice is received. The special education hearing officer shall make a determination within 10 school days after the hearing.

b. Unless the parents and local educational agency agree in writing to waive the resolution meeting or agree to use the mediation process:

(1) A resolution meeting shall occur within seven days of receiving notice of the due process notice; and

(2) The due process hearing may proceed unless the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties within 15 calendar days of the receipt of the due process notice.

c. Once a determination is made, the special education hearing officer may:

(1) Return the child with a disability to the placement from which the child was removed if the special education hearing officer determines that the removal was a violation of special education disciplinary procedures or that the child's behavior was a manifestation of the child's disability; or

(2) Order a change of placement of the child with a disability to an appropriate interim alternative educational setting for not more than 45 school days if the special education hearing officer determines that maintaining the current placement of the child is substantially likely to result in injury to the child or to others.

Q. Timelines for nonexpedited due process hearings. (34 CFR 300.510 and 34 CFR 300.515)

1. Resolution meeting.

a. Within 15 days of receiving notice of the parent's(s') due process notice, and prior to the initiation of the due process hearing, the school division shall convene a meeting with the parent and the relevant member(s) of the IEP Team who have specific knowledge of the facts identified in the due process notice that:

(1) Includes a representative of the local educational agency who has decision making authority on behalf of the local educational agency; and

(2) May not include an attorney of the local educational agency unless the parent is accompanied by an attorney.

b. The purpose of the meeting is for the parent of the child to discuss the due process issues, and the facts that form the basis of the due process request, so that the local educational agency has the opportunity to resolve the dispute that is the basis for the due process request.

c. The meeting described in subdivisions 1 a and 1 b of this subsection need not be held if:

(1) The parent and the local educational agency agree in writing to waive the meeting; or

(2) The parent and the local educational agency agree to use the mediation process described in this chapter.

d. The parent and the local educational agency determine the relevant members of the IEP Team to attend the meeting.

e. The parties may enter into a confidentiality agreement as part of their resolution agreement. There is nothing in this chapter, however, that requires the participants in a resolution meeting to keep the discussion confidential or make a confidentiality agreement a condition of a parents' participation in the resolution meeting.

2. Resolution period.

a. If the local educational agency has not resolved the due process issues to the satisfaction of the parent within 30 calendar days of the receipt of the due process notice, the due process hearing may occur.

b. Except as provided in subdivision 3 of this subsection, the timeline for issuing a final decision begins at the expiration of this 30-calendar-day period.

c. Except where the parties have jointly agreed to waive the resolution process or to use mediation, notwithstanding subdivisions 2 a and 2 b of this subsection, the failure of the parent filing a due process notice to participate in the resolution meeting delays the timelines for the resolution process and the due process hearing until the meeting is held.

d. If the local educational agency is unable to obtain the participation of the parent in the resolution meeting after reasonable efforts have been made (and documented in accordance with the provision in 8VAC20-81-110 E 4), the local educational agency may at the conclusion of the 30-calendar-day period, request that a special education hearing officer dismiss the parent's due process request.

e. If the local educational agency fails to hold the resolution meeting specified in subdivision 1 a of this subsection within 15 calendar days of receiving notice of a parent's request for due process or fails to participate in the resolution meeting, the parent may seek the intervention of a special education hearing officer to begin the due process hearing timeline.

3. Adjustments to 30-calendar-day resolution period. The 45-calendar-day timeline for the due process starts the day after one of the following events:

a. Both parties agree in writing to waive the resolution meeting;

b. After either the mediation or resolution meeting starts but before the end of the 30-calendar-day period, the parties agree in writing that no agreement is possible; or

c. If both parties agree in writing to continue the mediation at the end of the 30-calendar-day resolution period, but later, the parent or local educational agency withdraws from the mediation process.

4. Written settlement agreement. If a resolution to the dispute is reached at the meeting described in subdivisions 1 a and 1 b of this subsection, the parties shall execute a legally binding agreement that is:

a. Signed by both the parent and a representative of the local educational agency who has the authority to bind the local educational agency; and

b. Enforceable in any Virginia court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States.

5. Agreement review period. If the parties execute an agreement pursuant to subdivision 4 of this subsection, a party may void the agreement within three business days of the agreement's execution.

6. The special education hearing officer shall ensure that, not later than 45 calendar days after the expiration of the 30-calendar-day period under subdivision 2 or the adjusted time periods described in subdivision 3 of this subsection:

a. A final decision is reached in the hearing; and

b. A copy of the decision is mailed to each of the parties.

7. The special education hearing officer shall document in writing, within five business days, changes in hearing dates or extensions and send documentation to all parties and the Virginia Department of Education.

8. Each hearing involving oral arguments shall be conducted at a time and place that is reasonably convenient to the parent(s) and child involved.

9. The local educational agency is not required to schedule a resolution session if the local educational agency requests the due process hearing. The 45-day timeline for the special education hearing officer to issue the decision after the local educational agency's request for a due process hearing is received by the parent(s) and the Virginia Department of Education. However, if the parties elect to use mediation, the 30-day resolution process is still applicable.

R. Timelines for expedited due process hearings. (34 CFR 300.532(c))

1. The expedited due process hearing shall occur within 20 school days of the date the due process request is received. The special education hearing officer shall make a determination within 10 school days after the hearing.

2. Unless the parents and local educational agency agree in writing to waive the resolution meeting or agree to use the mediation process described in 8VAC20-81-190:

a. A resolution meeting shall occur within seven days of receiving notice of the due process complaint.

b. The due process hearing may proceed unless the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties within 15 days of the receipt of the due process complaint.

c. The resolution period is part of, and not separate from, the expedited due process hearing timeline.

3. Document in writing within five business days any changes in hearing dates and send documentation to all parties and the Virginia Department of Education.

S. Costs of due process hearing and attorneys' fees. (34 CFR 300.517)

1. The costs of an independent educational evaluation ordered by the special education hearing officer, special education hearing officer, court reporters, and transcripts are shared equally by the local educational agency and the Virginia Department of Education.

2. The local educational agency is responsible for its own attorneys' fees.

3. The parent(s) are responsible for their attorneys' fees. If the parent(s) is the prevailing party, the parent(s) has the right to petition either a state circuit court or a federal district court for an award of reasonable attorneys' fees as part of the costs.

4. A state circuit court or a federal district court may award reasonable attorneys' fees as part of the costs to the parent(s) of a child with a disability who is the prevailing party.

5. The court may award reasonable attorneys' fees only if the award is consistent with the limitations, exclusions, exceptions, and reductions in accordance with the Act and its implementing regulations and 8VAC20-81-310.

T. Right of appeal. (34 CFR 300.516; § 22.1-214 D of the Code of Virginia)

1. A decision by the special education hearing officer in any hearing, including an expedited hearing, is final and binding unless the decision is appealed by a party in a state circuit court within 180 days of the issuance of the decision, or in a federal district court within 90 days of the issuance of the decision. The appeal may be filed in either a state circuit court or a federal district court without regard to the amount in controversy. The district courts of the United States have jurisdiction over actions brought under § 1415 of the Act without regard to the amount in controversy.

2. On appeal, the court receives the record of the administrative proceedings, hears additional evidence at the request of a party, bases its decision on a preponderance of evidence, and grants the relief that the court determines to be appropriate.

3. If the special education hearing officer's decision is appealed in court, implementation of the special education hearing officer's order is held in abeyance except in those cases where the special education hearing officer has agreed with the child's parent(s) that a change in placement is appropriate in accordance with subsection J of this section. In those cases, the special education hearing officer's order shall be implemented while the case is being appealed.

4. If the special education hearing officer's decision is not implemented, a complaint may be filed with the Virginia Department of Education for an investigation through the provisions of 8VAC20-81-200.

U. Nothing in this chapter prohibits or limits rights under other federal laws or regulations. (34 CFR 300.516)

Statutory Authority

§§ 22.1-16 and 22.1-214 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 25, Issue 21, eff. July 7, 2009; Errata, 25:23 VA.R. 4262 July 20, 2009; Errata, 26:4 VA.R. 447-448 October 26, 2009; amended, Virginia Register Volume 26, Issue 8, eff. January 25, 2010.

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