IMPORTANT ACTION ALERT-IDEA FAIRNESS (EXPERT FEES) - PLEASE SHARE!
- The following is a joint action alert from COPAA (the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates) and the National Autism Committee. PLEASE call Congress on the designated day - Wed., May 4 - if at all possible. If you can't, then please try to call that week and/or try emailing instead. But calls are best! Full instructions and background materials are below for your convenience. Even if you've never called your federal legislators before, please do it on May 4! It only takes a couple of minutes and it can make a huge difference! Please also share this alert widely - thanks!The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act - which you would be calling to support - will allow parents who win at due process (by proving the school has failed to provide an appropriate education to their child) to recover their expert witness fees. The original law - and other civil rights laws - allow such recovery. But a recent Supreme Court decision (Arlington v. Murphy) changed that, meaning that many families will not be able to afford to pursue their child's legal right to an education under IDEA because they cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars in expert witness fees with no hope of recovery even if they win (experts include doctors, psychologists, therapists, etc.)The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act simply restores Congress' original intent and brings IDEA into line with other civil rights laws that do allow parents to recover their expert witness fees if they win at due process. Without this important protection, IDEA will be in effect unenforceable for many, if not most, families of children with disabilities.ACTION ALERT FROM COPAA AND NATIONAL AUTISM COMMITTEE - PLEASE SHARE!
IMPORTANT ACTION ALERT:
CALL/EMAIL CONGRESS TO COSPONSOR
IDEA FAIRNESS RESTORATION ACT, WEDNESDAY, MAY 4, 2011
ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 4, 2011, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVE AND ASK THEM TO COSPONSOR THE IDEA FAIRNESS RESTORATION ACT (S.613 AND H.R. 1208). This bill will allow parents to recover expert witness fees when they prevail in due process hearings and court actions under the IDEA.
IDEA gives parents the right to an impartial due process hearing, but parents must be able to afford expert witnesses to testify at those hearings. Expert witnesses can include psychologists; physicians; speech, occupational, physical, and other therapists; educational experts; positive behavioral support experts, and others. Without expert witnesses, most parents cannot prevail. Sometimes, school districts sue parents and parents must have expert witnesses to adequately defend themselves.
The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act will restore the right to recover expert witness fees for parents and students with disabilities. Congress intended that parents have this right when it amended the IDEA in 1986. But in 2006, the Supreme Court acted contrary to this intent and held that parents could not recover expert witness fees in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy. Plaintiffs in other civil rights cases, like ADA cases, recover fees, and this bill would simply give parents the same right.
ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 4, 2011, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SENATOR AND REPRESENTATIVE AND ASK THEM TO COSPONSOR S.613 and H.R. 1208. It is crucial that Congress hear from parents of children with disabilities, advocates, attorneys, family, friends, and colleagues that this legislation is very important. If you cannot do call/email on May 4, please do it the week of May 2‑6, 2011.
Please share this action alert broadly.
HOW TO CONTACT CONGRESS: It is best to call your Representative and Senators. Calls are more personal and more attention is paid to them. Even a 2 minute call is very helpful. But if you need to email because of work schedule, disability, or other reason, please do so.
CALL CONGRESS. Call your Congressional Representative and Senators and ask them to Cosponsor S.613 and H.R. 1208, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act. You can call them at
202-224-3121 (TTY 202-225-1904). If you do not know who they are, you can look them up at www.house.gov or www.senate.gov. Ask for the staff member who handles education or disability. Share with them the information below.
SEND AN EMAIL MESSAGE TO CONGRESS. You can email your Congressman through their special forms on House of Representatives Website, http://www.house.gov/writerep , and write your Senators through their Web Form on the Senate website, http://1.usa.gov/Senat
SAMPLE EMAIL / INFORMATION TO SHARE IN YOUR CALL. Here is information you can share with Congress as you ask for support. You can use it for your phone call, or you can cut and paste it into an email form. If you email, it helps to personalize it with even a few sentences about your child or your legal/advocacy practice. You might add something like “We are the parents of a child with autism and it is important to us that you support this bill, so we can afford due process if we are ever forced to go.” Or write something longer and more personalized.
Please cosponsor the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, H.R. 1208 and S.613. It will restore Congress' original intent in enacting the Handicapped Children's Protection Act of 1986 that parents who prevail in administrative hearings and court actions be allowed to recover expert witness fees. The bill would overturn the Supreme Court decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy.
When school districts provide an education so poor that they fail their legal obligations, parents can seek an impartial due process hearing to protect their child. In those hearings parents must provide testimony from such expert witnesses as psychologists, doctors, therapists, and educational experts. This testimony is needed to prove that a free appropriate public education was not provided to their children. Few parents can afford expert witnesses. Nearly 36% of children with disabilities live in families earning less than $25,000 a year; over two-thirds in families earn less than $50,000 a year. Without the ability to afford expert witnesses, the right to a due process hearing is not meaningful for most parents.
The bill simply gives parents the same right as prevailing plaintiffs under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other similar laws to recover expert fees. When Congress passed the Handicapped Children's Protection Act of 1986, it intended that parents would recover expert witness fees in IDEA cases, as clearly stated in the Conference Report. But the Murphy case overrode that intent. We ask Congress to restore its original intent and provide parents with the right to recover expert witness fees if they win their case.
Your name here
- The Senate bill, (S.613) is here: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.uscongress/legislation.112s613
- The House bill (H.R. 1208) is here: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.uscongress/legislation.112hr1208
- For more information about this alert, please contact
Jessica Butler, Congressional Affairs Coordinator, Autism National Committee, jessica@...
Bob Berlow, Government Affairs CoChair, Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates, govrelations@...Sandy, Illinois (alpy2@...)
Our Children Left Behind (http://www.ourchildrenleftbehind.com)