Are you the parent of a child with autism that is receiving special education services? Are you tired of your child not getting needed educational services? Are you considering filing for a due process hearing, and would like to know what legally binding settlement agreements are? This article will discuss what legally binding settlement agreements are so that you can help your child receive FAPE.

Due process is a formal process used by parents and special education personnel to resolve disputes between them. Either special education personnel or parents may file for a due process hearing. The hearing is run by a due process hearing officer which in most states are attorneys; that have special knowledge of special education.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which was reauthorized in 2004 allowed for legally binding settlement agreements for the first time. Prior to this any written settlement between parents and school districts, were not legally enforceable by any entity! This is a good change for parents and children, because if a school district writes a legally binding settlement agreement it can be enforced by any state or federal court.

There are two types of settlement agreements under IDEA 2004:

1. If a parent files for a due process hearing for their child a resolution meeting must be held between school districts and parents, within 15 days. If an agreement is reached, a legally binding settlement agreement must be written and signed by parents and school personnel. Either side can void the agreement within 3 business days!

2. If a parent requests mediation and an agreement is reached, a written agreement is signed by both parties is also legally binding! There is no 3 day voiding allowed in mediation.

It is extremely important for parents to understand that legally binding settlement agreements only apply to settlements reached during the resolution meeting or mediation.

Many parents thought that they were signing a settlement agreement that was enforceable, only to find out that it was not! If you are having difficulty with your school district and they are now offering a settlement agreement, I would immediately ask for mediation. By doing this any agreement is enforceable in state or federal court. Mediation must be agreed to by both parties. If the school district refuses to go to mediation, file for a due process hearing. You can still settle your case at the resolution meeting, and it would be considered a legally binding settlement agreement!

By understanding legally binding settlement agreements you will be able to help advocate for a free appropriate public education for your child! Good Luck!