2024 Legislative Priorities

Burden of Proof

When parents or guardians and the IEP team cannot come to an agreement on the IEP, the parents or guardians may choose to file due process. In the state of Missouri, the burden of proof that IDEA requirements have not been met is on the parents. Many states rightfully place the burden of proof on the school districts, since the school is required by law to meet the IDEA requirement of providing FAPE (free and appropriate public education) for the student.

The Supreme Court ruled that while the burden of proof lies on the parents or guardian, states may pass laws to change this. Currently nine states and Washington, DC, have laws that place the Burden of Proof on the school system.

“Stay Put” through Mediation

When there is a disagreement with the IEP, there are various methods of resolution available to the team. If a change is being made to an IEP that the family does not agree with, they only have 10 days before that change goes into effect. In those 10 days, the family must file a Due Process complaint to invoke something called “stay put.” This is a protective measure that will pause changes from being made until a hearing officer can make a ruling on the disagreement.

Due Process is currently the only resolution method that grants “stay put” provisions. Due Process can also be expensive, drawn out, and difficult. Mediation is a faster and completely free option to resolve conflict, but it is not utilized as often because families are seeking that “stay put” method of protection that they can only attain through Due Process. By allowing “stay put” to be invoked through mediation, families and schools can avoid expensive legal proceedings of Due Process and quickly resolve disagreements.

Seclusion & Restraint

Currently, school districts are allowed to create their own definitions for seclusion, isolation, and restraint.
The following are some definitions from DESE’s model policy:

Isolation: The confinement of a student alone in an enclosed space without locking hardware.

Physical Restraint: The use of person-to-person physical contact to restrict the free movement of all or a portion of a student’s body. It does not include briefly holding a student without undue force for instructional or other purposes, briefly holding a student to calm the student, taking a student’s hand to transport him or her for safety purposes, physical escort, or intervening in a fight.

Seclusion: The confinement of a student alone in an enclosed space from which the student is physically prevented from leaving by locking hardware.

Time-Out: Brief removal from sources of reinforcement within instructional contexts that does not meet the definition of seclusion or isolation.