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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: March 9, 2015 01:41 PM
From: Senator Patrick M. Browne
To: All Senate members
Subject: Burden of Proof Legislation for Special Education Students
In the near future I plan to reintroduce legislation which was introduced as Senate Bill 1344, in the prior legislative session. This legislation places the burden of proof on school districts, rather than on the party seeking the relief, in special education hearings. School districts are better able to meet that burden than are the parents of children with disabilities.

For many years, the rule established by the U.S. Third Circuit Court with jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, established that the burden of proof in hearings to determine whether school districts are providing children with disabilities the special education they need in the least restrictive environment, was placed on the school district. In 2005, the United States Supreme Court decided Schaeffer vs. Weast. Schaeffer held that, under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the burden of proof is on the party seeking relief – which is usually the parents. The court expressly did not invalidate state laws that placed the burden on the school district. Unfortunately Pennsylvania had no such statute or regulation in effect.

Currently 11 states have passed laws and/or regulations that have changed the burden of proof to the school district. With this legislation, Pennsylvania would join these states that protect the interests of children and families.

This legislation was cosponsored last session by Senators ARGALL, COSTA , SCHWANK, FONTANA , TEPLLITZ, GREENLEAF, DINNIMAN, FARNESE, RAFFERTY , BREWSTER, WILLIAMS , and LEACH..

Introduced as SB762