Date Published: Mar 1, 2016
University of LaVerne, doctoral dissertation
Metheny, P.

Purpose. The purpose of this study was to identify recommendations that a Delphi panel of experts judged to be the most important for the future of due process in special education for avoiding due process hearings. The study also sought to determine and describe the degree of importance and feasibility for the recommendations.

Methodology: This study employed a Delphi technique through 3 iterative rounds. Twenty-one experts in 2 panels, practitioners and academics/policy advisors, completed a series of 3 questionnaires. A priority matrix was utilized to further analyze the importance and feasibility of the recommendations.

Findings: The experts identified 30 recommendations and reached a high level of consensus on the importance of 6 of the recommendations and on the feasibility of 5 of the recommendations. The top 2 priority recommendations for importance and feasibility were to include in the reauthorization requirements for staff training in IEP development and the use of respectful communication. The use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) strategies was also a recommendation identified as important and feasible.

Conclusions: The most important and feasible recommendations identified by the experts reflect the need to include preventative practices that focus on resolving conflict for the purpose of improving interpersonal relationships to avoid due process hearings. The experts’ recommendations represent a significant shift from the current tenor of the law, which focuses on legal actions aligned with civil court practices to a focus on practices for resolving conflicts within a human relations perspective.

Recommendations for Inclusion in the Reauthorization of IDEA: Specific recommendations were identified. Keep due process hearings as the final stage but do not include in IDEA any additional, specific, legal procedures. Change the tenor of IDEA to focus on proactive, preventative conflict resolution practices within a human relations perspective from a tenor based in highly procedure-driven, civil law actions. Do so by including in IDEA mandatory requirements for staff trainings in the development of IEPs with assessment, goals, and services aligned that are student-centered, for evidence of best practices in respectful communication, such as active listening, and for the use of ADR activities. Mandate and provide federal funding for ADR activities. Set parameters for the use of public education dollars to pay attorneys involved in due process activities.