IDEA 2004 includes a section (Subpart E) called Procedural Safeguards. These safeguards are designed to protect the rights of parents and their child with a disability and, at the same time, give families and school systems mechanisms to resolve their disputes. Parents have the right to disagree with decisions that the school system makes with respect to their child with a disability.
- The Right to Disagree NICHCY Legacy
Knowing and advocating for your rights is an important part of helping your child succeed in school. If you ever have a dispute with the school, it’s important to have written documentation to support your position. This is commonly called a papertrail. Be sure to visit our webpage on Letter Writing to learn more. This NICHCY article offers an overview of dispute resolution options: Five Options, 1-2-3.
- Informally – Working with your case manager (main contact person, this could be a teacher or a therapist) discuss what you are not happy with. Documenting the issues and proposed solutions on a worksheet can help keep everyone on track. .
- Informally – Work your way up the ladder. If speaking to the individual with whom you have a concern does not solve the problem, then contact you student’s teacher. If that doesn’t fix it, then contact the building principal, then the building special education supervisor, then the district special education supervisor, then the regional special education supervisor, ISD/RESA special education supervisor. Each ISD also has a Compliance Monitor, who’s job includes investigating complaints.
- Mediation/Facilitation – If you don’t think you are being listened to, you can get an independent organization to help. Michigan Special Education Mediation Program (MSEMP) has free services (no cost to families or the school) to help work out your differences. MSEMP can provide a neutral facilitator to run a meeting (this is called facilitation) and also offers mediation to resolve disputes related to special education and early intervention services. Also available is our free On Demand webinar on Special Education Mediation in Michigan. Great resources also available from: The National Center on Dispute Resolution in Special Education.
- Formal Complaint – If you think your rights have been violated or that the law is not being followed, you have the right to file a State Complaint with the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). Parents worry about filing a complaint. There are organizations that can help you through the process, including us at 1-800-552-4821, Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services (MPAS) at 1-800-288-5923, or your ISD’s Compliance Officer.
The state complaint process can address noncompliance with MARSE and IDEA. Complaints about access, harassment, denial of FAPE, and civil rights violations are addressed by the federal Office of Civil Rights, under the protections offered by Section 504. Michigan School Code also specifies Parental Rights.
- IDEA State Complaints Homepage Note: MDE has taken down this website as of 11/9/2015
- Request State Complaint Investigation MDE Form
- Special Education Problem Solving Process MDE
- Comparison of Special Education Problem Solving Options MDE
- MDE-OSE Problem Solving Timeline MDE
- State Complaint Findings (final reports for state complaint investigation) Note: MDE has taken down this website as of 11/9/2015
- MDE 8/31/2015 Memo MDE out of Compliance with Complaints Process, Clarification of Enforcement of Behavior Plans
A state complaint can be filed about any allegation of violations of state or federal education law. A due process complaint has to be related to the proposal or refusal to initiate or change the identification, evaluation or educational placement of a child with a disability, or the provision of FAPE to the child. Due process will involve the school’s attorney, submitting documents and oral testimony, and cross-examination of witnesses during a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. Parents are not required to have an attorney to pursue due process, but its often recommended.
- Due Process Procedures MDE (includes form to start the process)
- The Due Process Complaint NICHCY Legacy
- The Resolution Process NICHCY Legacy
- IDEA requires that schools convene a resolution meeting within 15 days of receiving notice that a parent has filed a due process complaint and before the school system initiates the due process hearing.
- Due Process Complaint/Request for Hearing Form MDE
- Due Process Hearing Decisions MDE
Civil Rights Protections
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is the civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability
More perspective on complaints and compliance:
Who Will Enforce Special Education Law? (Wrightslaw)
Playing (And Winning) The School District’s Game of Chicken (Special Education Advisor)