The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) recently sent memos to districts, reminding them of their obligations to comply with deadlines set forth in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The memos were a response to a letter sent from the U.S. Department of Education to NJDOE  concerning corrective actions for special education timelines.

All four memos were issued by the NJDOE Division of Student Services on Aug. 6 and include:

  • A reminder that a final decision in a special education due process hearing must be issued and provided to the parties within 45-days after the expiration of the 30-day resolution period. While extensions of the 45-day timeline may be granted at the request of either party, the extension must be limited to a specific period of time. Further, administrative law judges (ALJs) will be required to submit documentation on a monthly basis to the NJDOE that includes the number of due process hearings conducted, resolved and pending; the number of extensions of the 45-day timeline requested and the reason for the request.
  • Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its implementing regulations, within 15 days of receiving notice of a parent/guardian’s request for a due process hearing, the local educational agency (LEA) must convene a resolution meeting with the parent/guardian and the relevant members of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. The purpose of a resolution meeting is to provide the LEA an opportunity to resolve the dispute prior to a due process hearing. If an LEA fails to convene a resolution meeting as required, the NJDOE will issue a finding of noncompliance.
  • A reminder that expedited due process hearings are available for disputes regarding the placement of a student with a disability resulting from a disciplinary action or when a local educational agency (LEA) believes that maintaining the current placement of the child is substantially likely to result in injury to the child or others. Expedited due process hearings, which are presided over by ALJs, must occur within 20 school days of the date the hearing is requested. The ALJ must issue a final decision within 10 school days after the hearing.
  • While any administrative or judicial proceeding regarding a request for a due process hearing is pending, the student involved in the request must remain in his or her current educational placement unless the parent/guardian and the local educational agency (LEA) agree otherwise. This procedural protection is commonly referred to as “stay put.” A student’s right to “stay put” applies even if the filing occurs more than 15 calendar days after the proposed change in the student’s program or placement.

For further information about these memos, please contact the NJSBA Legal and Labor Relations Department at (609) 278-5254 or your board attorney.