An advisory opinion is a non-binding opinion issued by a hearing officer after consideration of a brief presentation of information by both the parents and the school district. Based upon this non-binding opinion, the parent or the school may decide not to bring the matter to a full due process hearing and, instead, settle the dispute. The parent and the school district will each have 45 minutes to present their case to a hearing officer. Each party may present one or two witnesses during their allotted time and introduce reliable and essential documents such as the most recent IEP, revisions to the IEP, educational evaluations, progress reports, transcripts, independent evaluations, and teacher narratives. The parent and the school district must exchange copies of any documents and the names of any witnesses no later than five calendar days prior to the advisory opinion. This information must also be provided to the hearing officer at the same time. The parent will have 15 minutes to respond to the school district’s presentation, and the school district will have 15 minutes to respond to the parent's. Afterwards, the hearing officer will render an oral opinion. No record will be made of the advisory opinion process.
System Oversight, Infrastructure and Organization: 

System Design/Management

The due process unit located within the Bureau of Special Education and Pupil Services manages this process.

Policy/Procedures

 may be necessary, the parties to the advisory opinion process shall request a postponement of a prehearing conference or of any scheduled hearing date. The hearing officer assigned to the full hearing shall reschedule such hearing date and other dates as appropriate with the cooperation of the parties. Such rescheduling shall not exceed 30 days from the initial full hearing date. The due process unit shall assign an advisory opinion hearing officer for the advisory opinion who shall not be the hearing officer assigned to the full hearing. The advisory opinion hearing officer shall schedule a date consistent with the parties' identified date as indicated in the request for the advisory opinion process. The advisory opinion hearing officer shall send a notice to the parties confirming the date, time, and location of the advisory opinion proceeding as well as a copy of the advisory opinion procedure. Each party shall exchange copies of documents intended to be submitted to the advisory opinion hearing officer and the names of no more than two witnesses no later than five calendar days prior to the advisory opinion proceeding. Each party shall simultaneously provide copies of the same documents and the witnesses' names to the advisory opinion hearing officer. If not already provided, the party who requested an advisory opinion shall provide a statement of the issues in dispute and a proposed resolution of those issues. The advisory opinion hearing officer shall accept only essential and reliable exhibits, which may include the most recent IEP, revisions to the IEP, educational evaluations, progress reports, transcripts, independent evaluations and teacher narratives. The parties shall agree in writing, prior to the commencement of the advisory opinion proceeding, to abide by the following procedures in the advisory opinion proceeding: (1) The proceedings shall not be recorded or transcribed; (2) In addition to the parent, special education director and an attorney or advocate for each party, only three additional individuals may attend and/or participate for each party; (3) The process shall not be open to the public; (4) Witness presentations, whether in question and answer format or not, shall not be under oath; (5) Once the date has been set for the advisory opinion proceeding, no requests for postponement shall be entertained; (6) Unless the advisory opinion hearing officer determines otherwise, once the advisory opinion proceeding has begun, there shall be no adjournments; (7) The parties' presentations shall be conducted as follows: (A) The party requesting a change in special education or related services shall be allocated 45 minutes to present that party's case, and shall present no more than two witnesses. No cross-examination or objections
shall be permitted during this time. (B) The responding party shall then be allocated 45 minutes to present that party's case, and shall present no more than two witnesses. No cross-examination or objections shall be permitted during this time. (C) The requesting party shall then have 15 minutes to ask questions of any witness or elaborate on any part
of that party's case. (D) The responding party shall then have 15 minutes to ask questions of any witness or elaborate on any part of that party's case. (8) The advisory opinion hearing officer may ask questions of any witness at any time; time consumed in responding to the hearing officer questions shall not extend a party's allocated 45 minute and 15 minute presentation periods. (9) The advisory opinion hearing officer shall render an oral advisory opinion within 30 minutes of the close of presentations. The advisory opinion hearing officer need not respond to questions concerning such advisory opinions.
(10) After rendering an advisory opinion, an advisory opinion hearing officer may facilitate settlement discussions. (11) The rendering of any advisory opinion shall have
no effect on a party's right to proceed to a full due process hearing, nor on the outcome of any due process hearing, and the advisory opinion shall be confidential and shall not be admissible in any due process hearing. (12) An advisory opinion hearing officer shall not be a witness in any subsequent due process hearing involving the issues raised in the advisory opinion process and shall be precluded from serving as a hearing officer in any later hearing involving issues raised in the advisory opinion process.

Personnel

The due process unit shall assign an advisory opinion hearing officer for the advisory opinion who shall not be the hearing officer assigned to the full hearing. An attorney authorized to practice law in the Superior Court of the State of Connecticut and in good standing with that court may represent a party in the advisory opinion process. A party to the advisory opinion process, including a parent representing the legal interest of his or her own child, may appear pro se. When a party elects to proceed pro se but is accompanied by an attorney or an advocate, the hearing officer may enter such orders to assure that the pro se party presents its case efficiently and in a manner that does not prejudice the opposing party, including but not limited to, an order that the attorney or advocate not participate directly by making argument or objections or examining witnesses.

Miscellaneous

An advisory opinion is non-binding and does not restrict the parent's right or the school district’s right to engage in other forms of resolution such as mediation or a due process hearing. Advisory opinion sessions are not open to the public and no record of the proceeding is made. The advisory opinion is confidential and may not be used as proof in any future due process hearing.

Public Awareness & Outreach Activities: 

Availability/Accessing Services

When a hearing is requested, the public agency shall inform the parent of the availability of mediation and the advisory opinion process. Any party may submit to the due process unit a written request for an advisory opinion. In order to commence the advisory opinion process, a request for an advisory opinion may be submitted after, or
simultaneously with, a request for hearing or before, or after, the convening of the prehearing conference, but before the hearing convenes. The advisory opinion process is not available after the hearing has been convened. The parties may jointly request an advisory opinion. One party may request an advisory opinion simultaneously providing a copy of the request to the other party. If the non-requesting party agrees to participate in the advisory opinion process, that party shall so notify in writing the due process unit and the requesting party within five calendar days from the receipt of the request.

Request_Advisory_Opinion_Form