IDEA includes a section called Procedural Safeguards. These safeguards are designed to protect the rights of parents and their child, and provide a way 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.

Dispute Resolution

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.

Special Education Dispute Resolution Options

Resolution Options in Special Education (SEMS)

Dispute Resolution: 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.
  • 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 Michigan Alliance for Families at 1-800-552-4821, Disability Rights Michigan, or your ISD’s Compliance Officer.

 State Complaints

The state complaint process can address noncompliance with the IEP under MARSE and IDEA.  A state complaint investigates if the school violated the law or failed to do something the law requires.
A complaint can be filed up to one year after the problem occurs. 

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. Section 504 complaints can be filed up to 180 days after the problem occurs.

Michigan School Code also specifies Parental Rights.

Due Process

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 hearing notice must be filed within two years of the date of the IEP. 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.

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:

Special Education Laws

Who Will Enforce Special Education Law?  (Wrightslaw)

State Complaints– from the Michigan Alliance for Families Webinar Series

Due Process Hearing– from the Michigan Alliance for Families Webinar Series


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