The IDEA is a federal law enacted to ensure every child with special needs is afforded a free and appropriate education. Prior to 2004 the IDEA did not contain a statute of limitations. In 2004, Congress reauthorized the IDEA and added a two-year statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a law which sets out the maximum time that parties have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of the alleged offense.

Parents and school districts are entitled to file due process complaints with respect to any matter relating to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of a free and appropriate public education of such child. (20 USC Section 1415(b)(6)(A)). The two-year statute of limitations for filing due process applies equally to a parent’s request for an IEE. (Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School Dist. v. Parents (2012) OAH #2012051153).

Calculating the Two-Year Statute of Limitations

20 USC Section 1415(f)(3)(C) states:

parent or agency shall request an impartial due process hearing within 2 years of the date the parent or agency knew or should have known about the alleged action that forms the basis of the complaint, or, if the State has an explicit time limitation for requesting such a hearing under this subchapter, in such time as the State law allows.

Since the reauthorization, hearing officers have wrestled with the interpretation of the two-year statute of limitations. In 2017, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held there is no automatic two-year time bar of claims based on the date of the filing of the case. Avila v. Spokane School Dist. 81 (9th Cir. 2017) 852 F.3d 936. The 9th Circuit refused to uphold a strict occurrence rule which would calculate the two-year statute of limitations from the date the due process complaint was filed. Instead, they upheld the discovery rule, which requires courts limit claims to the two-year period that precedes the date when a parent or agency knew or should have known about the alleged action that forms the basis of the complaint. Avila. This is a question of fact for the hearing officer.

Exceptions to the Two-Year Statute of Limitations

There are only two narrow exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations. 20 USC Section 1415(D)(i) and (ii) provide the following exceptions:

  • specific misrepresentations by the local educational agencythat it had resolved the problem forming the basis of the complaint; or
  • the local educational agency’s withholding of information from the parent that was required under this subchapter to be provided to the parent.

These narrow exceptions require that the LEA’s actions be intentional or flagrant rather than a repetition of an aspect of determining whether a student received a free appropriate public education. Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School Dist.

Hearing officers have recognized that while an IEP’s implementation is on-going, special education law does not recognize the doctrine of continuing violations as an exemption from the two-year statute of limitations. (Parents v. Hermosa Beach City Elementary School Dist. (2011) OAH# 2011081019).

As you negotiate disputes with your local school district, it is important to keep in mind the two-year statute of limitations. If you don’t, you may lose your right to file a claim for violations under the IDEA as well as other federal and state laws.

If you believe you have a claim against your school district, contact Kristin Springer at (925) 551-1041 to determine whether your claim falls within the statute of limitations.


(Note: This Blog/Web Site is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The website has been designed to be a resource for information on matters that might be of interest to current or potential clients but does not establish that relationship. For further information visit my Disclaimer page-





In most instances where a child is already receiving special education services, the simple answer is no. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (“IDEA”) provides procedural protections to parents and local educational agencies (your school district). One of those procedural protections is the allowance of an impartial due process hearing with respect to the provision of a free and appropriate public education to a student (“FAPE”). Parents and the local educational agency may file for due process to resolve disputes related to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of a student.

School districts have a mandatory responsibility to file for due process when a disagreement arises with parents of a student receiving special education services. The school district is required to continue to provide the services set out in the student’s IEP while they resolve the remaining disputes. Failure to request due process for a protracted period of time is a serious procedural violation of state law. Porter v. Manhattan Beach Unified School Dist. (C.D.Cal., Dec. 21 2004 (Case No. CV 00-8402 GAF)) 105 LRP 40577.

The school’s responsibility to file for due process also extends to the obligation to have an IEP in place at the beginning of the year. (34 C.F.R. 300.323(a), see also M.M. v. School Dist. Of Greenville County (4th Cir., 2002) 37 IDELR 183) School districts “cannot excuse their failure to satisfy the IDEA’s procedural requirements by blaming the parents.


Something to consider…. The party who files the administrative complaint has the burden of persuasion by a preponderance of the evidence. (Schaffer v. Weast (2005) 546 U.S. 49) It isn’t always advantageous to file due process when the school district has the obligation to file. Please also understand that a procedural violation alone doesn’t entitle a parent to seek relief from the school district. If you would like more information regarding this issue, contact me at (925) 551-1041 to discuss the facts of your particular case.