Section 504: Impartial Hearings

FCPS Operating Procedures for Section 504 Impartial Hearings

FCPS or the parent or guardian of a student (or an adult student) with a disability as defined by Section 504 may request an impartial hearing to resolve any disagreement regarding the identification; evaluation; accommodations, modifications, and/or services; provision of FAPE; or causality determination of the student with a disability. Requests for a hearing that raise issues pursuant to both Section 504 and IDEA may, at the discretion of the hearing officer, be heard together through the IDEA hearing procedures provided by federal and state law, regulations, and FCPS policies.

Requesting an Impartial Hearing

Requests for an impartial hearing shall be made in writing and delivered to the coordinator of Due Process and Eligibility. The request shall include the name of the student, the address of the residence of the student (or available contact information in the case of a homeless student), the name of the school the student is attending, a description of the nature of the problem with supporting facts, and a proposed resolution of the problem.

If the request does not include all of the required information, it may be returned to the parents within ten school days of receipt by the coordinator with a request to provide the missing information within five additional school days. The remaining procedures will not proceed until the additional information is received from the parents.

A hearing may only be requested within one year of the date the parents knew, or should have known, about the alleged actions or facts that form the basis of the complaint.

FCPS will provide a written response to the request for hearing. The response will be delivered to both the parents and the hearing officer within 15 school days of receipt of a request for a hearing that includes all of the required information. If FCPS requests an impartial hearing, parents will have the same option to respond.

Assistance will be provided to persons who may need it in order to comply with the requirements to file a written request for an impartial hearing.

Appointment of Hearing Officer

An impartial hearing officer will be appointed by the coordinator of Due Process and Eligibility from the list of special education due process hearing officers maintained by the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia. The coordinator will contact the Office of the Executive Secretary to request the name of a hearing officer within five school days of receipt of a request for a hearing that includes all of the required information for filing a request for a hearing, and will follow up as necessary until a hearing officer is appointed.

Pre-Hearing Procedures

Prior to the hearing, the hearing officer shall do the following:

  • Convene a prehearing conference with the parties, unless the hearing officer determines such a conference is unnecessary.
  • Identify the specific issues to be addressed during the hearing based on the request for hearing and any response provided by the other party.
  • Schedule a hearing date and location with input from the parties, and notify the parties in writing of such information.
  • Ascertain whether the parties will be represented by counsel.
  • Ascertain from the parents whether the hearing will be open or closed.
  • Ensure that the hearing will be accurately recorded by a court reporter who is paid for his/her attendance by the school system.
  • Have the authority to require that the student be evaluated.
  • Require the parties to exchange a list of witnesses and any documents to be presented during the hearing at least five business days in advance of the hearing unless otherwise permitted by the hearing officer for good cause shown, with a copy provided to the hearing officer as well.

Hearing Procedures

The parties have the following rights in the hearing:

  • To be represented by counsel with each party being responsible for its own attorneys’ fees.
  • To present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.
  • To request that the hearing officer prohibit the introduction of evidence or the testimony of a witness that had not been disclosed five business days in advance of the hearing.
  • To obtain, at their own expense, a copy of the transcript of the hearing.

The hearing officer shall ensure the following in connection with the hearing:

  • An atmosphere conducive to impartiality and that fairness exists.
  • The issues raised in the hearing are limited to those identified in the request for a hearing and any response filed, or to any subsequent amendment to the request or the response when allowing such amendment is mutually agreed to by the parties or as otherwise permitted by the hearing officer for good cause shown.
  • The parties and their attorneys, advocates, or advisors comply with the special education hearing officer's rules, and with relevant laws and regulations, and are not permitted to pursue hostile or irrelevant pursuits in questioning.
  • Actions are taken to move the case to conclusion, including dismissing the pending proceeding if either party refuses to comply in good faith with the special education hearing officer's orders.
  • An accurate record of the proceedings is maintained.
  • The party requesting the hearing has the burden of proof.
  • The hearing is completed within 45 calendar days of receipt of the request for a hearing or of a subsequent agreed upon amendment, unless an extension is granted at the request of either party for good cause or by mutual agreement of the parties.

The hearing officer shall issue a decision:
A written decision shall be issued to all parties setting forth findings of facts and conclusions of law based on the evidence presented in the hearing. The decision shall be issued within 15 business days of the conclusion of the hearing. The decision is final and binding unless either party files a timely appeal in an appropriate court.

Any questions regarding these procedures should be directed to the coordinator of Due Process and Eligibility.