Federal law gives certain rights to parents who cannot reach agreement with school districts regarding what their child needs, or who believe the district is not following the child’s IEP. There will be times when parents just cannot agree with the school’s recommendations about their child’s education. Under the law, parents have the right to challenge decisions about their child’s eligibility, evaluation, placement, and the services that the school provides to the child. When parents disagree with the school’s actions-or refusal to take action-in these matters, you have the right to pursue a number of options:
- Try to reach an agreement.
Parents can talk with school officials about their concerns and try to reach an agreement. Sometimes the agreement can be temporary. For example, the parents and school can agree to try a plan of instruction or a placement for a certain period of time and see how the student does.
- Ask for mediation.
During mediation, the parents and school sit down with someone who is not involved in the disagreement and try to reach an agreement. The school may offer mediation, if it is available as an option for resolving disputes prior to due process.
- Ask for due process.
During a due process hearing, the parents and school personnel appear before an impartial hearing officer and present their sides of the story. The hearing officer decides how to solve the problem. (Note: Mediation must be available at least at the time a due process hearing is requeste
- File a complaint with the state education agency.
To file a complaint, generally parents write directly to the SEA and say what part of IDEA they believe the school has violated. The agency must resolve the complaint within 60 calendar days. An extension of that time limit is permitted only if exceptional circumstances exist with respect to the complaint. http://www2.ed.gov/parents/needs/speced/iepguide/index.html?exp=3
Disputes with the school district are tricky to navigate, and it can help to have a lawyer advocate for you; to be the “bad guy” where needed, or to extend the olive branch where appropriate. Either way, the goal is to figure out what approach, or combination of approaches will work best for your child. I can put my experience as a parent and advocate to work for you, whether the final solution is working with the school district, or ultimately going to a hearing or other action in court.
Requesting an Impartial Hearing
If your family does not agree with the school district regarding your child’s IEP, you will likely need some advice on how to move forward to solve the dispute in a way that gets your child the resources and support that he or she needs. Talking with the school district is a good place to start, but mediation is also a potentially helpful alternative. If mediation does not solve the problem, then you have a right to request an impartial hearing. When requesting an impartial hearing, you should collect and prepare any documents relating to your child’s educational program. I can help you determine the documents that are needed and how to present them in a way that best advocates your position.