Due process hearings are best described as a mix between an IEP meeting and a traditional court case. Hearings are held in conference rooms, not courtrooms. A hearing officer presides over the hearing. Because a hearing officer is not a judge, you should not call the officer "your honor," a respectful "Mr." or "Ms." will do. School districts are always represented by an attorney. Parents have the right to be represented by an attorney, advocate, or can represent themselves pro se. Before the hearing officially begins (is "on the record") the hearing officer sets some ground rules (whether drinks or snacks are in the room permitted and how to request breaks).
Once the hearing begins the hearing officer describes the rules of the hearing. The hearing officer will also admit the exhibits submitted by the parties into evidence. At this point parties may bring motions. For example, the parents may move to open the hearing or sequester witnesses. Most hearings are closed, meaning they are confidential, but if the parent requests and the hearing officer approves, hearings may be opened to the public, including the media. Similarly, parents may move to sequester witnesses. The default rule, however, is that witnesses called by the school and the parents can be present throughout the entire hearing, and will hear testimony of other witnesses.
After preliminary motions, most hearing officers ask parties to present their opening statements. After the opening statements, the moving party (the party that requested the hearing) calls their first witness. The witness is sworn in, and the moving party examines the witness. Witnesses cannot ask others in the room for help answering the questions posed, but if directed by the questioner, can refer to exhibits.
Unlike traditional rules of evidence, hearsay is allowed. Parties can object to questions. Parties can object to the question's relevance to the case ("relevance"), that the question has already been asked of the witness and answered by the witnesses ("asked and answered",),or that the witness lacks any foundation of knowledge to answer the question ("foundation.")
After the moving party examines the witness ("direct examination,") the non-moving party cross-examines the witness. After the cross examination there is an opportunity for the moving party to ask any remaining questions (redirect). The hearing officer may also ask questions of the witness throughout the testimony. After the moving party calls their witnesses, the non-moving party calls their witnesses. After all witnesses have testified it is time for closing arguments. The hearing officers may request oral or written closing arguments. At this point the record of the hearing is closed. Parties wait until the hearing officer issues his or her decision. Parties are bound by the decision, but have the right to appeal.