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What Steps Need to be Taken to Resolve a Special Education Dispute?


If your child has an IEP or 504 and is participating in the public school special education program and the school is not following the guidelines, what do you do? According to the OSPI, Office of Public Instruction, there are three options under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to resolve a dispute between parents and the school district. 

-The first option is to Request Mediation.  Mediation is a process that is free and is an opportunity for the parents and the district to discuss their concerns with the help of a trained, unbiased mediator. 

-The second option is to File a Citizen’s Complaint.  Anyone can file a citizen’s complaint and the OSPI will investigate allegations that occurred in the last year.  You only need to explain to the best of your ability the complaint that you feel the school district has committed, however, you do not need to know the specific law you feel was violated.

Per the OSPI, the Citizen’s Complaint should include the following:

  • Name, address, and other contact information such as a telephone number of the person filing the complaint.
  • Name, address, and other contact information of the student at issue in the citizen complaint. This includes contact information for a student who is homeless.
  • Name of the school district or other agency you believe violated the IDEA. If the citizen complaint is about an agency you must also provide the address.
  • Date you provided the school district or other agency with a copy of the complaint.
  • A description of how you think the school district violated special education rules or laws —OR— a description about how a school district is not implementing a mediation agreement or resolution session agreement. Include a description of the facts and dates, in general, of when you think the alleged violations happened.
  • A proposed solution, if you think you know or have ideas about how the issue can be resolved.

If the OSPI finds a violation has been committed, they will make written recommendations for the student and/or the district to remedy the situation. 

-The third option is to Request a Due Process Hearing.  A due process hearing is a formal hearing where the parties involved, including the parents and the district, will be allowed to present their case to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  The parents and the district may be accompanied and advised by an attorney or special education advocate, if they wish.  The parties will present their case and the judge will reach a decision. 

Parents of special education kids have to advocate for their children.  Sometimes this can be challenging because the school district might not be equipped to provide the best education possible to help the child succeed to the best of their ability.  It is important for parents to learn their rights and to learn as much as possible about the child’s disability and school curriculum.  Stay in constant contact with the school and follow-up to make sure your child doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.


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