Law & Courts

The Burden of Proof

By Christina A. Samuels — February 04, 2008 1 min read

An article I wrote recently about New Jersey shifting the burden of proof in individualized education program hearings is generating a lot of thoughtful reader comments.

The issue: When a school creates an IEP for a student and the provisions of the plan are disputed, who has to prove their case? Does the school have to prove that it is doing the right thing, or do the parents have to prove that the school’s plan is wrong? In 2005, the Supreme Court decided in the case Schaffer v. Weast that, in the absence of any other state law, the “party seeking relief” should always have the burden of proof. Practically speaking, the ruling means that it’s the parents’ job to prove that the school is wrong, because parents are most likely to be the party seeking relief.

New Jersey, however, recently passed a law stating that no matter who is complaining about the IEP, it’s the school’s job to prove that its plan is appropriate for the child.

You can read more of the details in the article. Feel free to join the lengthy conversation that is already taking place in the comments appended to the bottom of the story, or to talk about the topic here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.