Dispute Resolution

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.

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. Be sure to visit our webpage on Documentation and Letter Writing to learn more. Prior Written Notice is an explanation provided when the district wants to take an action, or when the district refuses to take the action.

Special Education Dispute Resolution Options MDE-OSE

Resolution Options in Special Education SEMS

Parent Advocacy Resources MAF

  • 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 your 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. Special Education Mediation Services (SEMS) has free services to help work out your differences. SEMS 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.
  • Formal Complaint – If you think your rights have been violated, that the law or the IEP is not being followed, you have the right to file a State Complaint or request a Due Process Hearing. Parents may worry about filing a complaint but there is help to get 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. 

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 potential violation. 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 recommended.

Civil Rights Protections

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.

More Resources 



Due Process COMPLAINT AND Hearing


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