FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Board of Regents Acts to Amend Regulations Related to Special Education Due Process Procedures
The Board of Regents today acted to amend regulations to improve the special education due process system in New York State, including measures designed to increase the number of special education impartial hearing officers (IHO) for due process complaints in New York City. The proposed regulatory changes will help address the backlog of cases in New York City and provide some flexibility to allow videoconferencing to alleviate some pressure on the due process system.
“It is paramount to foster a fair and impartial hearing process for special education students across New York State,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said. “All students and their families deserve to be heard on matters regarding their education. I am confident that the amendments outlined in the regulations will streamline the hearing process and improve access to services for New York’s children.”
“Chancellor Rosa, the Board of Regents and I are committed to ensuring that every student in New York State has access to a swift and judicious hearing regarding their education services,” Board of Regents Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown said. “The feedback from the field has been instrumental in the development of regulations that will allow for an expedient hearing process and ensure students receive the supports they are entitled to.”
“The amendments put forth will help ensure students with disabilities and their families get access to the services and supports they need and are entitled to in a timely manner," Interim Commissioner Tahoe said.
New York State’s current requirements for IHOs exceed those required by IDEA. The amendments to the Department’s regulations will continue to meet or exceed IDEA requirements and will streamline the special education due process system.
Summary of Amendments
Expanding the Pool of Potential IHO Applicants
Regulations would be amended to allow for the certification of non-attorney IHOs to hear complaints filed in New York City, which has 95 percent of the volume of New York State’s cases. Under the proposed regulations, non-attorney IHOs would be required to possess a minimum of a Master’s degree in education, special education, psychology, or a related field and two years of experience applying knowledge of federal or state law and regulations pertaining to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in education, special education, or a related field. The New York City Department of Education endorses this change to expand the number of certified IHOs accepting cases.
State Education Department regulations would be further amended to remove certain restrictions on IHO attorney candidates for the rest of the State, including the number of years of experience required to serve as an IHO and the state in which they are licensed to practice. All IHO candidates would continue to undergo a rigorous vetting and training process.
With the proposed regulatory amendments, IHOs would be required render decisions in a format consistent with NYSED guidelines that comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This requirement would eliminate the need for local educational agencies or NYSED to redact decisions prior to making the decisions publicly available.
Use of Video Conference
The regulations currently allow IHOs to receive testimony by telephone. The proposed regulations would allow IHOs to receive testimony via video conference to better accommodate needed witnesses, provided that such testimony shall be made under oath and shall be subject to cross-examination.
NYSED would allow an IHO to conduct hearings by video conference with the consent of parties so long as all personally identifiable data, information, or records pertaining to students with disabilities during such hearing is kept confidential.
The proposed regulation will be published in the State Register and NYSED will accept public comments through May 18, 2020. Public comments may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. It is anticipated that the proposed rule will be presented to the Board for permanent adoption at the July 2020 Regents meeting.
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