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U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans

Decision of hearing officer (Sec. 300.513(a))

Comment: Some commenters requested that the regulations clarify that LRE is a substantive, not a procedural, issue and that a hearing officer can base relief on the failure of an LEA to provide FAPE in the LRE to the maximum extent possible. A few commenters recommended that the regulations allow a hearing officer to dismiss a complaint or to rule on summary judgment if there is no claim or controversy to be adjudicated. The commenters stated that hearing officers should be allowed to dismiss cases when the alleged violation does not focus on a substantive issue.

Discussion: Section 300.513(a)(1) and section 615(f)(3)(E) of the Act provide that, in general, a decision made by a hearing officer must be made on substantive grounds based on a determination of whether the child received FAPE. Furthermore, Sec. 300.513(a)(3), consistent with section 615(f)(3)(E)(iii) of the Act, allows a hearing officer to order an LEA to comply with procedural requirements under Sec. Sec. 300.500 through 300.536.

Although the Act and these regulations require that hearing officers base determinations of whether a child received FAPE on substantive grounds, hearing officers also may find that a child did not receive FAPE based on the specific procedural inadequacies set out in Sec. 300.513(a)(2), consistent with section 615(f)(3)(E)(ii) of the Act.

Hearing officers continue to have the discretion to dismiss complaints and to make rulings on matters in addition to those concerning the provision of FAPE, such as the other matters mentioned in Sec. 300.507(a)(1). To clarify this point, we are revising the heading of Sec. 300.513(a) to refer to decisions of hearing officers about FAPE, and are revising Sec. 300.513(a)(1). The requirements in Sec. Sec. 300.507 through 300.508 governing the content of the due process complaint, including requirements for sufficiency and complaint amendment, and requirements governing the resolution process in Sec. 300.510 should help to ensure that due process complaints that are the subject of a due process hearing under this part contain claims that are appropriate for a hearing officer's decision.

Changes: We have reworded Sec. 300.513(a)(1) and revised the heading of Sec. 300.513(a) to refer to decisions regarding FAPE.