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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: January 27, 2019 12:35 PM
From: Senator Patrick M. Browne
To: All Senate members
Subject: Burden of Proof Legislation for Special Education Students
I will be reintroducing Senate Bill 541 of last session, which places the burden of proof on school districts, rather than on the party seeking the relief, in special education hearings.

This legislation was cosponsored last session by Senators Costa, Mensch, and Brewster.

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 or regulations that have changed the burden of proof to the school district. School districts are better able to meet that burden than are the parents of children with disabilities. With this legislation, Pennsylvania would join these states that protect the interests of children and families.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as SB664