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Senate Majority Leader

Bob Duff

Representing Norwalk & Darien

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As the U.S. Senate Prepares to Vote on President Trump’s Choice of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, Senate Majority Leader Duff Vows to Fight Connecticut Republican Proposals that Could Prevent Special Needs Students From Receiving Appropriate Education Services

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) today joined parents of special education students and advocates to vow to fight against several Republican proposals that will make it harder for special needs students to receive appropriate educational services.

Senator Duff and parents of special education students raised the alarm on two bills that would drastically change the process for determining if a school’s special education plan is appropriate for a student.

Senate Bill 408, An Act Concerning Independent Evaluations and the Burden of Proof in Special Education Hearings and House Bill 5787, An Act Shifting the Burden of Proof in Special Education Hearings would shift the burden of proof in special education hearings from the school district to parents to prove that the special education plan developed by the district for their child is inadequate, instead of the district proving it is.

“Drastically changing the burden of proof process puts parents at a clear disadvantage, by shifting the burden of proof onto their shoulders,” said Senator Duff. “Parents without the financial resources are less likely to able to hire an attorney and find expert witness. Unrepresented parents already face an uphill battle. A free and appropriate public education is critically important to a child’s ability to grow into a successful and independent member of society.”

Senator Duff and parents also warned that Senate Bill 409, An Act Concerning the Time Limit for Special Education Hearings and House Bill 5710, An Act Concerning the Revisions to the Special Education Hearing Process would limit special education due process hearings to a maximum of three days. While some cases can be heard in that time frame, others have factual details that make a three-day hearing infeasible. Setting an arbitrary limitation will interfere with due process and makes it more difficult to receive appropriate services.

The press conference coincided with this week’s expected vote by the United States Senate on Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education. During her confirmation hearing, DeVos appeared confused about federal law protecting students with disabilities. DeVos, who does not have any experience with public education, has been referred to as the least-qualified candidate ever nominated for Education Secretary.

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