Watch out for people who use words like “proffer”….

Congress mandated a “resolution session” prior to a special education due process hearing in an effort to encourage settlements rather than lawsuits.  The idea was to make sure that the school listened to the parents’ concerns, and had an opportunity to address them before both sides lawyered up.  A good idea, I suppose, but it assumes good faith cooperation. If you don’t have good faith cooperation, you have Matthews v. Douglas County School District RE-1

Mr. Matthews knew about resolution sessions before he requested a due process hearing on behalf of his child. In fact, when he requested the hearing he also informed the district of the dates and times when he would be available for a resolution session. Good for Mr. Matthews!  Ms. Trujillo responded on behalf of the district with a proposed date and time that matched one of the times when Mr. Matthews indicated he would be available.

Mr. Matthews did not see this as a proposal, or confirmation of an agreement, and he did not respond kindly.  He chose to respond not to Ms. Trujillo, but to the principal. He wrote:

Please advise Ms. Trujillo that her unilateral demand, including time and place, for a Resolution session is premature and denied.  You must first answer the complaint.  Upon receipt of such, I will proffer a Resolution meeting time and date with you in attendance.

Three things are worth noting at this point. First, Mr. Matthews was incorrect in his belief that the district was required to answer the complaint prior to the resolution session. Second, the district is responsible for setting up the resolution session, so Ms. Trujillo’s letter was not a “unilateral demand” but rather, just a simple way to fulfill the district’s duty.  Third, when dealing with people who toss around words like “proffer” you need to bring in the lawyers. 

The next fight was over location.  Mr. Matthews expressed his view this way:

You and Trujillo don’t get to dictate whom will attend, the location or time of the meeting….The meeting can take place at either Legend High School or my office. The meeting time will be one that is convenient to me.  However, you must first answer the Complaint….You can accept my gracious offer or not.

Long story short: they never had the resolution session.  They never had the due process hearing  either, and that’s because the hearing officer tossed it out.  The district moved for dismissal of the due process hearing based on 34 CFR 300.510(b)(4) which permits districts to seek dismissal if the district has been unable to obtain the parent’s participation in the resolution session despite reasonable efforts to do so that are documented.

We may never learn what Mr. Matthews complaint was about.  Perhaps he had a valid claim. But his own obstructive conduct kept him from pursuing it.  The court:

Based on the tenor of the parties’ correspondence as a whole, this Court finds that Mr. Matthews imposed the condition of holding the meeting at the school simply in an attempt to frustrate or scuttle the District’s attempts to conduct the meeting.

It was decided by the federal court for Colorado on February 11, 2021.  We found it on Special Ed Connection at 78 IDELR 63.


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Tomorrow: judge rips state level review officer….