The price parents paid: A qualitative study of parents who challenged the special education system

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Human Services


Steven Taylor


Impartial hearings, Due process, Parents, Special education

Subject Categories

Special Education and Teaching


In 1975, Congress passed Public Law 94-142, which provides students with disabilities specific due process rights. One of these rights is to request an impartial hearing if parents do not agree with their child's special education program. This qualitative study examined parents' experiences throughout the impartial hearing process in New York State. Parents were interviewed; documents and transcripts were reviewed and analyzed in order to outline parents' interpretation of the process. One major finding of this study was that parents were disillusioned with their due process rights, and were unprepared for the realities of the impartial hearing process. Parents experienced emotional, financial and personal difficulties during their hearings and subsequent appeals. A second major finding was that state and federal regulations regarding impartial hearings were not implemented or monitored throughout the process. Recommendations regarding the impartial hearing process, parents' involvement and the school's role are discussed.


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