The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (hereinafter "IDEA") entitles every disabled child to a "free appropriate public education" specifically structured to meet each child's individual needs. In order to accomplish this, public school systems located in states receiving federal funds for education must create an Individualized Education Program (hereinafter "IEP") for each disabled child within its jurisdiction. The parents of disabled children must be consulted annually in the IEP's design, and may request "an impartial due process hearing" before an administrative law judge (hereinafter "ALJ") in cases where they feel that the IEP is inadequate. In such instances, however, it remains unclear whether the parents or the school system maintains the burden of proof. This comment explains why the burden of proof in IEP disputes should be found to lie with the school system.
Part II of this article takes a brief look at the current stance other jurisdictions take in deciding how to allocate the burden of proof in IDEA cases. Part III sets out relevant factual and procedural occurrences in the case, and details the reasoning of the majority and dissenting opinions. Part IV examines in greater detail the flaws in the majority's analysis, and Part V concludes this case comment.
II. BACKGROUND OF THE LAW
Several jurisdictions have attempted to wrestle with the issue of who should bear the burden of proof in IDEA-prescribed state administrative proceedings initiated by parents to challenge an IEP. Currently, there are three circuits that assign the burden to the parents, and four circuits that assign the burden to the school systems. The Sixth Circuit adheres to traditional principles and encumbers the plaintiff with the burden of proof in IEP disputes. The Fifth and Tenth Circuits also assign the burden of proof to the parents, but do so out in deference to the expertise of the school systems' "education professionals." On... [continues]
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