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About Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Hearings

How to use this guide

This guide provides a general overview of what to expect if you have a special education or other Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). What actually happens at your hearing may be different depending on the type of hearing and the unique circumstances of your case. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will give you instructions about how your hearing will proceed at the prehearing conference and/or beginning of the hearing.

Words highlighted below have been defined in our Glossary of Legal Terms. Just click on the highlighted word and you will jump to its definition on the glossary page. When possible, we have also highlighted specific laws and regulations for you to review.

If you have further questions, contact the telephone number listed on your Scheduling Notice or Notice of Hearing.

What kinds of hearings are held?

The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) is authorized to render final administrative decisions in nine areas:

  • Special Education Hearings are governed by the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), set forth at 20 United States Code (USC) §§1400 and following. Under the IDEA and state regulations implementing it, due process hearings may be requested by parents of students with disabilities, students 18 years or older with disabilities, or school districts.  Due process hearings may be filed to resolve disputes concerning the identification, evaluation, educational planning, or provision of services to a student with disabilities. Chapter 28A.155 Revised Code of Washington (RCW) and Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 392-172A-05080.
  • Non-resident Student Transfer A parent may request a hearing to challenge the resident school district's decision to not release the parent’s child to attend school in a different school district. A parent may also request a hearing to challenge a non-resident district's decision to not accept a transfer request for the parent’s child. RCW 28A.225.225 and RCW 28A.225.230, Chapter 392-137 WAC.
  • Professional Certification OSPI is responsible for primary enforcement of regulatory standards for certification of educational professionals. It investigates applications for certification, allegations of unprofessional conduct by certificated professionals, and failure to obtain required continuing education hours. Applicants and certificated professionals may request a hearing to challenge a denial of an application, denial or renewal of certification, or disciplinary action. RCW 28A.410.010 and Chapter 181-79A WAC and Chapters 181-85 through 181-88 WAC. 
  • Child and Adult Care Food Programs provide free and reduced price meals at schools, child care facilities, and adult care facilities. Each facility is responsible for contracting with OSPI and conducting its program according to the rules set by OSPI and federal regulations. A facility may ask for a hearing if OSPI seeks to enforce the regulations with a claim for reimbursement, or to deny a facility’s application, or to terminate its agreement. Chapter 28A.235 RCW, Chapter 392-157 WAC, and 7 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Parts 225, 226. 
  • Equal Educational Opportunity  Discrimination in public schools on the basis of sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, disability, or the use of a trained service animal, is prohibited.  Allegations of harassment or discrimination on one of these bases -- whether the alleged perpetrator is a student or a school district employee -- are initially investigated and enforced at the school district level. A party who is dissatisfied with the school district’s resolution of their complaint may appeal to OSPI.  OSPI will conduct its own investigation and enforcement.  A party who is dissatisfied with OSPI’s resolution may appeal and have a hearing before an ALJ from OAH.  Chapters 28A.640 and 28A.642 RCW, and Chapter 392-190 WAC.
  • Boundary Dispute  A school district or a resident may file a petition to transfer territory from one school district to another.  If the school districts do not agree regarding the transfer, a hearing is held before a regional committee.  If a party does not agree with the decision of the regional committee, a party may appeal the decision to OSPI, based on a claim that the regional committee failed to follow applicable law or acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner.  If the regional committee’s decision is found to violate the law, the matter is returned to the regional committee for further action.  RCW 28A.315.205(5). 
  • Traffic Safety Education OSPI is responsible for administering and certifying driver education programs. An organization seeking to operate such a program may request a hearing to challenge a denial, suspension, or revocation of a traffic safety education program’s approval. Chapter 28A.220 RCW and Chapter 392-153 WAC. 
  • Audit Resolution Organizations receiving funds administered by OSPI may be audited to ensure the funds are being used as intended. An audit may include a finding that funds should be reimbursed because they were not spent according to the requirements of the program. As part of the process for resolving disputes regarding these findings, an organization may request a hearing to appeal the findings. Chapter 392-115 WAC.
  • School Bus Driver Authorization School bus drivers are required to obtain an authorization to operate a school bus from OSPI. OSPI regulations set forth minimum requirements for obtaining and maintaining the authorization. The authorization may be denied, revoked, or suspended for failure to meet the minimum standards. A bus driver or applicant may request a hearing to challenge a denial of an application, or a suspension or revocation of an existing authorization. RCW 28A.160.210 and Chapter 392-144 WAC.  

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How do I request a hearing?

For all OSPI hearings except special education and nonresident student transfer cases (see below), a hearing is started by sending a letter to the Administrative Resource Services office of OSPI.  For most types of cases, it is sufficient if the letter includes: the appellant’s name, address, and telephone number, the opposing party (the name of the school district, or part of the OSPI agency whose actions are contested), and the action challenged. The letter should be mailed to:

Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
Administrative Resource Services
PO Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200
Fax Number: (360) 753-4201
Telephone Number: (360) 725-6133

Special education cases – These cases are initiated by filing a due process hearing request.  A due process hearing request must contain specific information. See OSPI’s website for instructions and a form to request a special education hearing:

Nonresident student transfer cases - The hearing request must be on a special form.  Information and a link to that form may be found by scrolling down to the “Student Transfer” section on the following website page:

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What happens after I request a hearing?

When OSPI receives a request for hearing it forwards the request to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) OSPI Caseload Coordinator. The Caseload Coordinator assigns an ALJ. A prehearing telephone conference and hearing date are selected. A Scheduling Notice containing both of these dates and additional information is mailed to each party identified in the request for hearing, together with a copy of the hearing request. In special education cases, a list of legal resources is provided. Either party may request a continuance of the prehearing conference or the hearing for good cause.   

Prehearing Conference

The prehearing conference is conducted by telephone and is used to discuss the potential length of the hearing, a location for the hearing, the issues to be decided, the order of presentation, and any other matters that will contribute to an efficient hearing.

The ALJ issues a Prehearing Order that summarizes the prehearing conference and sets forth deadlines. Each party should carefully review the Prehearing Order and comply with its terms.  At the prehearing conference, the ALJ will set a date (usually five business days before the hearing) by which each party is required to identify witnesses and provide copies of documents to the ALJ and the opposing party (the documents are also called exhibits).  Failure to exchange the documents may result in the document being excluded from the hearing.  


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How do I prepare for my hearing?

It is useful to create a hearing notebook for your use during the hearing. The notebook should contain a list of questions for every witness, including questions for the other party's witnesses (cross examination). It is also useful to use exhibit numbers in your questions if you intend to ask a witness about a particular exhibit. 

The parties must prepare four identical copies of their exhibit notebooks.  The four copies are  for themselves, the other party, the ALJ, and the witnesses. 

Each party must arrange for their own witnesses to appear at the hearing.  The ALJ may authorize a witness to appear by telephone if necessary.  If a witness is reluctant to attend, the ALJ may issue a subpoena to compel the person’s attendance.

Please note that firearms and other dangerous weapons are prohibited at hearings and in all OAH offices.


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What happens during my hearing?

Arrive at the hearing early enough to start the hearing at the scheduled time. At the beginning of the hearing the ALJ will introduce the parties and the procedural background of the case. He or she will describe the procedure that will be followed. The parties shall present their cases in the order previously agreed upon, or in the order designated by the ALJ. In some types of OSPI hearings, the proceedings are reported by a court reporter.  In other types of OSPI hearings, the proceedings are digitally recorded by the ALJ.

At the hearing, the ALJ will receive exhibits, hear testimony, and consider the parties' arguments. Testimony is given under oath or affirmation and each party has a right to question witnesses presented by the other party. Depending upon the specific type of hearing, each party may be represented by an attorney, accompanied and advised by a lay advocate, or the party may represent her/him/itself. 

After the evidence has been presented, the parties will have an opportunity to make closing arguments. Closing arguments are an opportunity to argue how the facts and the law support your view about how the case should be decided.  Often parties wish to submit closing argument in writing, and the ALJ will set a date for their submission. After receiving closing arguments, the ALJ will close the record. No further evidence may be submitted after the close of record.


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What happens after my hearing?

The Decision

At the end of the hearing the ALJ will provide a time frame for issuance of the written decision. The decision contains three parts: findings of fact, conclusions of law, and an order. The decision determines each of the issues identified in the prehearing order. The Administrative Procedure Act requires that a decision be mailed no later than 90 days from the close of record. RCW 34.05.461(8). In special education cases, a decision must generally be issued within 75 days of the request for hearing.  This deadline may be extended by the ALJ upon the request of a party.  WAC 392-172A-05110(3).  In special education discipline cases, the deadline for the ALJ to issue the written decision is shortened to 10 school days after the hearing, and this deadline may not be extended.  WAC 392-172A-05160(3)(a). 

Appeal Rights

Appeal rights will be stated at the end of the decision.  In most types of cases, parties may ask the ALJ to reconsider his or her decision before they appeal that decision to court.  RCW 34.05.470. In special education cases, there is no right to reconsideration, but parties may appeal to either state superior court or federal district court.  WAC 392-172A-05115.


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Is there a legal assistance list for special education disputes?

OAH maintains a list of organizations or persons who assist or represent parents in special education due process disputes. Each has requested to be on the list. Some have more experience in the field than others. It is important when seeking representation to ask questions to ensure that your needs will be met. This list is not exhaustive nor is it a recommendation of any particular service provider. Parents may also contact the state bar association and their local bar association’s lawyer referral service for options in their area. Click to view the Legal Assistance List for Special Education Disputes.

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How can I get my name added to the legal assistance list for attorneys/advocates for special education hearings?

Submit a written request to the OAH/OSPI caseload coordinator at the following address:

Matt Wacker, Senior ALJ
OAH/OSPI Caseload Coordinator
Office of Administrative Hearings
One Union Square, Suite 1500
600 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101-3126
Telephone Number: (206) 389-3400
Toll Free: (800)

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