Tuesday, November 22, 2005

High court rules against parents in special education case

Did the ruling weaken part of the disability law?

Parents who demand better special education programs for their children have the burden of proof in the challenges. The Supreme Court handed down that ruling last week. Retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, writing for the 6-2 court, said that when 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 Education Act, which does not specifically say whether parents or schools have the burden of proof in disputes. The law covers more than six million students.

The Maryland family in the Supreme Court case had argued that when there are disagreements between schools and parents, education officials have better access to relevant facts and witnesses. The Bush administration backed the Montgomery County, Maryland, school district which maintained that the extra requirement would be expensive for local schools.

Related: New York Times, CNN/AP

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