1. File a written request for a due process hearing
A request for a due process hearing must be done in writing to both the school superintendent and to Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). You should request one within 2 years of when the alleged action took place. You can use the Parental Request for an Impartial Due Process Hearing Officer form.
Include the following information in your request:
- The student's name
- The student's address
- The name of the child's school
- A detailed description of the problem
- A description of what you want the school to do or stop doing
In your description, explain each problem in detail and what caused the problem. You should write the letter as if the hearing officer knows nothing about you, your child, or your child's disability. This will be the first thing the hearing officer reads about your child.
If there is a problem that you do not include in the letter, you cannot talk about it at the hearing. So you should be sure to include everything you want to talk about in your letter.
Send the request to:
Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE)
100 N. First Street, N-243
Springfield, IL 62777-0001
The school district must respond to your request within 10 days.
2. Try to resolve the issue before the hearing
While you wait to hear about your hearing, you will be working with the school district to try to resolve the problem before the hearing. This is called the resolution period, which lasts 30 days. The hearing officer will help guide you through the process.
If a resolution is reached, the parties must sign a legally binding agreement. Both parties have 3 business days to change their mind and void the agreement.
Mediation is also an option to resolve the dispute. Mediation uses a neutral person who listens to each party’s side of the story and helps them try to find a solution to the problem without lawyers. Learn more about mediation.
3. Respond to sufficiency of request if you receive one
The school district may claim that the problems you talked about in your request letter were not sufficient. This means that the school claims that your request does not include all the things the Individuals with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires. The school district must give you and the hearing officer this information in writing within 15 days after receiving your request.
If this happens, the hearing officer will decide if your request is sufficient or not. The hearing officer may give you an opportunity to send a second letter. Make sure that all of the things listed in the IDEA are in your second letter.
If the school does not object to your letter, your letter is sufficient.
6. Attend the pre-hearing conference and prepare for the due process hearing
If the issue is not resolved during the 30 day resolution period, the 45 day hearing phase will begin. The due process hearing is supposed to be finished within 45 days of the start of the hearing phase.
The pre-hearing conference will occur no less than 14 days prior to the due process hearing. Issues for hearing will be decided at the pre-hearing conference. This means you will decide what questions the hearing officer will decide. It is important that the questions are written correctly, so be sure to listen carefully and speak up politely during the conference.
During the pre-conference hearing, you and the other parties will set the date, time, and location for the hearing. It is important to know which days you and your witnesses are available so that the hearing can be set for those days.
Also, the hearing officer will normally decide who will go first at the hearing and who will go second. Be sure the hearing officer sets the 5-day rule date during the pre-hearing conference, so everyone knows when it is.
Document books, witnesses, and amendments
The parent has until 5 days before the hearing to ask to change the due process request. Also, the parent and school must give a copy of the document book and witness list to each other and to the hearing officer.
Learn more about document books and witnesses.
7. Go to due process hearing
The due process hearing will start with opening statements. During the opening statements, each side will tell their side of the story and explain what they will prove by using their witnesses.
Parties call witnesses and ask questions
The first party will call their witnesses and ask them questions. After the first party has asked the witness all of their questions, the other party is allowed to ask the witness questions. The hearing officer can ask questions of any witness at anytime.
The witnesses will use the document book when they are asked questions about specific documents. You may need to ask the hearing officer to admit the documents as evidence. Either side may challenge the use of certain documents as evidence. This can be done at either a pre-hearing conference or at the start of the hearing.
After both sides are done asking a witness questions, that witness is done and the next witness is called. After one party finishes calling all of their witnesses, the other party will begin calling their witnesses. This will continue until both sides have called all of their witnesses.
Closing argument and decision
Each side will give a closing argument. This is your last chance to explain to the hearing officer what you proved with your witnesses and your documents.
After the closing argument is given by both sides, the hearing is closed and the hearing officer writes a decision.
8. Get a decision and appeal if necessary
You have 120 days after receiving the decision to file an appeal. If you want to appeal you should talk to a lawyer for advice. This is a short timeline during which you are able to file, so you will need to find a lawyer quickly, if you decide to hire one.
Keep in mind, a parent’s attorney may be responsible for paying the school district’s attorney’s fees if they file a frivolous or unreasonable lawsuit. Parents may have to pay the fees if the lawsuit was presented for an improper purpose, such as to harass or cause unnecessary delay or needlessly increase the cost of litigation.