Perry A. Zirkel

First Page



The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides states with the option of having one or two tiers of administrative adjudication prior to the judicial level of dispute resolution. Although the numbers of states that have only a hearing officer level and those that additionally have a second tier, i.e., review officer level, have fluctuated, the net direction and overall balance has been clearly in favor of a one-tier system. Although originally established as a relatively informal and expedited means of adjudication in comparison to the courts, these administrative levels have become increasingly legalized. Given the costs of legal representation and the lack of attorneys with specialization in IDEA cases, the question of whether there is a significant relationship between attorney representation, i.e., whether the parents proceed pro se, and the case outcome, i.e., whether the parent prevails, looms large. Although the considerations include other factors, including parental choice regardless of affordable availability, empirical information specific to this question would be useful.