The right place to resolve special education complaints

All of New York City’s children, including children with disabilities and unique needs, are entitled to, and deserve, a free and appropriate public education. When a parent of a child with special needs believes that the Department of Education is not providing their child with such an education, the parent is entitled, by law, to an impartial hearing and a prompt resolution of the dispute.

Unfortunately, for years, these hearings have been marred by delays. During the 2019-20 school year, the average case length for impartial hearings in NYC was 259 days, compared to 135 days in the rest of the state. And the number of parents filing these cases has increased each year, creating further backlogs. One factor for the delays: private attorneys conducted the hearings and had discretion to choose when to work, to decline case assignments, and to operate at their own pace, with compensation linked to their volume of activities, rather than adherence to timeliness. There also weren’t enough hearing officers accepting cases to keep up with demand. The city had to find a solution that would resolve these disputes promptly and fairly.