New legislation re: special ed due process hearings

We normally declare Tuesdays to be Toolbox Tuesdays around here, and we write about the Toolbox. But we are now inundated with new legislation that needs to be ‘splained. So we’re taking a break from the Toolbox Tuesday routine.

But this is at least somewhat related because it’s about what happens when you get completely crosswise with the parent of a student with a disability. You end up in a special ed due process hearing!  And it may be that the parent will be represented by a self-proclaimed “advocate” who is not a lawyer, but acts kinda like one. Well…there is a new law that applies to those situations.

SB 2141 will require non-lawyer advocates who receive monetary compensation for representing parents in due process hearings to abide by a “voluntary code of ethics.”  The Commissioner is required to develop rules about this, so presumably, that’s where the “voluntary code of ethics” will be.  Moreover, such advocates must have a written agreement with the parent that includes a method for resolving disputes between parent and advocate.

School lawyers have sometimes complained about the behavior and tactics of non-lawyer advocates because there is no way to hold them accountable.  A lawyer is subject to the ethical standards of the legal profession and may be called to account before the State Bar. No such mechanism exists with the non-lawyer advocate. That’s why we got this bill.

Some have wondered out loud how a code of ethics can be simultaneously “voluntary” and “required.” We’ll let Commissioner Morath figure that one out.


File this one under: LEGISLATION 2017 and SPECIAL EDUCATION