THE LEGALIZATION OF SPECIAL EDUCATION: PERCEPTIONS OF THE ELEMENTS OF DUE PROCESS BY PARENTS AND SCHOOL OFFICIALS IN PUBLIC LAW 94-142 PLACEMENT HEARINGS (PENNSYLVANIA)

STEVEN SELIG GOLDBERG, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine if legally mandated special education placement hearings are fair and useful ways for resolving placement disputes. State and federal statutes require school districts to provide every handicapped child with a "free appropriate public education". When parents and school officials disagree over a program, a placement hearing is convened and a hearing officer resolves the conflict. Yet, legal and educational theorists speculate that the law imposed an adversarial system unsuitable for determining educational programs. I measured participants perceptions of due process, and because due process requires hearings to be fair for all parties regardless of socio-economic status (SES) or winning, I correlated perceptions with SES and outcome. I did a content analysis of transcripts and decisions for all public Pennsylvania hearings (N = 66) from January, 1980, to August, 1984 to ascertain demographic information, issues, and outcomes. I used survey instruments to guide participant interviews, and to measure perceptions. My major findings: (1) A majority of parents believe they were accorded their legal rights in the pre-hearing stage; (2) A majority of parents and school officials believe they were accorded all legal rights under the system; (3) A majority of school officials believed their hearings were fair, accurate, and satisfactory ways to resolve disputes; (4) Parents were of two camps: A majority of parents believed hearings were fair; a majority did not think that opinions were accurately based on the evidence presented; and, a majority were unsatisfied with the process and decision rendered. A strong minority disagreed in each case with these responses. (5) Parents' perceptions were not significantly correlated to their socio-economic status, but were highly and significantly correlated to winning. School officials' perceptions were usually significantly but not as highly correlated to outcome as those of parents. The exceptions were administrators' positive feelings about the hearing officer and their participation at the hearing, which were not significantly correlated to winning. (6) There is a dramatic chasm between participants' positive feelings about procedural fairness when contrasted to beliefs that hearings are painful, destructive to parent-school relationships, and not useful for resolving special education disputes. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)

Subject Area

Special education

Recommended Citation

GOLDBERG, STEVEN SELIG, "THE LEGALIZATION OF SPECIAL EDUCATION: PERCEPTIONS OF THE ELEMENTS OF DUE PROCESS BY PARENTS AND SCHOOL OFFICIALS IN PUBLIC LAW 94-142 PLACEMENT HEARINGS (PENNSYLVANIA)" (1985). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8515380.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8515380

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