The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has ruled that the IDEA does not require a school district to request a due process hearing when the IEP team amends an IEP and the parents object. Instead, the court held that it is the parents’ responsibility to request a due process hearing.

The Fulton County School District had developed an IEP for a first grade student. After the student exhibited some behavior and academic problems, school officials met with the student’s parents to discussing amending the IEP to address these problems. Over the parents’ objections, the school district amended the student’s IEP.

The parents requested a due process hearing to challenge the amended IEP. An independent hearing officer dismissed the parents’ claims. After a district court upheld the hearing officer’s decision, the parents appealed to the Eleventh Circuit, challenging the procedures used to adopt the IEP.

The parents’ principal argument was that the school district, not the parents, should have had to request a due process hearing and defend the proposed IEP. In response to the parents’ argument, the court ruled that a school district may amend an IEP even if the parents do not consent to the amendment, if the amendment occurs as an IEP team meeting.  Finally, the court rejected the parents’ argument that the school district must present a complaint, request a due process hearing, and bear the burden of proof at the hearing before the amended IEP could be implemented.

The Eleventh Circuit decision represents a small step toward balance in the application of the requirements of the IDEA.