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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Maryland PTA Supports SB 691

Maryland PTA represents nearly 200,000 members in over 970 public schools, with the
mission of advocating on behalf of children and youth in the schools, in the community,
and before governmental bodies and other organizations that make decisions affecting
children. Maryland PTA is comprised of families, students, teachers, administrators, and
business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children in
Maryland. As the state’s oldest and largest child advocacy organization, PTA is a
powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families, schools and communities
and a strong advocate for public education.

Maryland PTA wants to thank the committee for considering legislation that would place
the burden of proof on school systems in due process hearings for our children with
disabilities. We fully support Senate Bill 691 as it will help our most vulnerable families 
as well as our teachers in supporting children with special needs.

Maryland PTA believes the burden of proof should be placed on the party who has the 
greater access and resources, as well as the legal obligation to provide the services in 
dispute. School districts create the Individualized Education Program (IEP), their 
employees work daily with the child, and they employ both legal and educational experts. 
On the rare occasion when mediation fails, the school district is most able to provide the
documentation already in hand, to facilitate teacher and educational expert witnesses, and
to bear the legal burden.

Parents of children with disabilities, on the other hand, are more likely to be low income, 
less educated, and already overburdened with the challenges their child faces. Many are 
unaware of the responsibilities of meeting the current burden of proof. Several cases in 
Maryland over the years have seen school districts successfully move for judgment 
without presenting any evidence because a parent, attempting to represent themselves, 
failed to understand the legal requirements of burden of proof. As a result, the merits of 
the case are not even considered and a child’s needs may go unmet.

This legislation would support our families and our teachers. It very simply requires on
rare occasions that the school district prove the IEP they created meets the requirements
of a free appropriate public education as required under the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA). Your favorable vote on this bill will indicate the state’s
expectation that our school districts are accountable and must stand behind their own
practices in serving our neediest children.

One of PTA's Purposes is "to secure adequate laws for the care and protection of children
and youth," and SB 691 supports that purpose.

For the reasons stated, Maryland PTA encourages your support of SB 691.

Testimony submitted on behalf of Maryland PTA
Rita Lowman, President

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