Council of Parent Attorneys
and Advocates, Inc.
A national voice for special education rights and
PO Box 6767, Towson MD
Jessica Butler, Chair,
COPAA Board of Directors & Robert Berlow, Government Relations Chair (email:
Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas
introduced the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act. This bill, would allow prevailing
parents to recoup their expert costs in litigation under the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act. The
bill would restore Congress’ original intent in granting parents the ability to
recover their attorneys’ fees and costs when they prevail in IDEA cases. Congressman Van Hollen’s speech in
introducing the bill is here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?r110:14:./temp/~r110qVAiAw:
prevail in IDEA cases only when they show that the school district provided an
education so inferior that it failed its legal obligations. But while they can recover their
attorneys’ fees, they cannot recover their expert witness costs as a result of
the Supreme Court’s decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy
(2006). The IDEA Fairness
Restoration Act would override the Supreme Court’s decision and help even the
playing field for parents of children with
grateful for the hard work and leadership of Congressman Van Hollen and
Congressman Sessions on this bill.
included in the IDEA the right to a due process hearing because it recognized
that parents needed an independent dispute resolution process to enforce their
rights to a free appropriate public education for their children with
testimony is often necessary in such cases.
Congress amended the IDEA to allow parents to recover their attorneys’ fees when
they prevail in due process. This
was necessary to reverse a Supreme Court decision forbidding such recovery. Congress amended the IDEA because it
recognized that parents need lawyers and experts to exercise their right to due
process. Congress knew that parents
have substantially fewer resources than school districts and many cannot afford
expert witness fees.
Twenty-one years later, that reality still has not
changed. Approximately 36% of
children with disabilities live in families earning less than $25,000 a year;
over 2/3 earn less than $50,000 a year.
Few parents can afford the thousands of dollars needed to pay qualified
medical, educational, and technical experts. While parents must hire expert witnesses
to testify, school districts can use therapists, psychologists, and other expert
witnesses on their own payroll.
Approximately 7 million children with disabilities are
currently covered by the IDEA.
Nonetheless, parents proceed to litigation only as a last resort. In 2003, the GAO reported that there
were only 5 hearings per 10,000 special education students. Parents should not be deprived of
their right to due process for lack of resources.
COPAA thanks Congressman
Van Hollen and Congressman Sessions for introducing this very important
legislation. We call upon
COPAAns to contact their Congressional offices and urge support of the IDEA
Fairness Restoration Act. It
is important to send COPAA a copy
of your letters and emails to Congress, so that we can show the strength of
support for this legislation.
There are four ways to do this:
202-224-3121 and ask to speak to your Representative’s Office, When you are
connected, ask for the Education aide.
(To find your Congressional Representative’s name, go to
http://www.house.gov/ and use the locator in the upper left
your Representative. You can find
your Representative’s fax number on his/her webpage at
http://www.house.gov/ Be sure to
send COPAA a copy of your fax, either by emailing it to protectidea@... or
by faxing it to 410-372-0209.
your Congressperson, http://www.house.gov/writerep/ Before you send your email, please copy
it into a word processing document, along with your Congressperson’s name and
your name and address, and send that copy to COPAA. You can email it to us at
protectidea@..., fax it to 410-372-0209, or send it to COPAA, PO Box 6767,
Towson MD 21285. This will enable
us to collect all of the letters and emails for key Congressional aides. This is very important. In the crush of email that reaches
Congress about a variety of issues, we need to present a large number of emails
and letters to show how strong our support is on this
(4) If you
are unable to make long distance phone calls and do not have access to email,
please call your local Congressional office. Go to the “Blue Pages” in your local
phone book and look in the federal government section for the phone
After you contact your
Congressional Representative, help your friends and family members write letters
and make telephone calls, too!
The IDEA Fairness
Restoration Act goes far to remedy the gross imbalance of resources between
parents and school districts.
We thank Congressman Van Hollen and Congressman Sessions for their
dedication to the rights of children with disabilities. While the bill does not deal with
Schaffer v. Weast, COPAA will continue to work hard to seek an override
of that decision about burden of proof.
Meanwhile, we thank you in advance for your letters in support of the
IDEA Fairness Restoration Act. Together, we can make an override of the Murphy decision a reality and protect
children’s fundamental rights to a free appropriate public
Thank you for your support
and joining in our efforts,
Chair, COPAA Board of
Chair, COPAA Government
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this email with others.