The IDEA provides the fundamental framework for state-level resolution of special education disputes, while also allowing states to add to (but not subtract from) the regulations for state and local education agencies. In this article Zirkel presents how each state has supplemented the federal template related to due process hearings (DPH), with specific attention to elements of decisions and routes of appeal.
By examining laws, regulations, and other administrative policies, Zirkel identifies considerable differences in decision requirements such as FAPE limitations, factual findings, and public availability. Further distinctions arose regarding appeals: some states offer an optional, second-tier hearing prior to judicial review, and some specify whether appeals are heard in state or federal courts.
The application of laws under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) may conflict with the efficiency goals of the IDEA, as state administrative requirements may delay hearing outcomes. Zirkel discusses the need to customize general administrative procedures to meet the structure and purpose of the IDEA.