Fully evolved conflicts may be formally addressed by parents and school districts through utilization of legal procedural safeguards. These highly specified processes are reviewed.
Resolution meetings, often referred to as “resolution sessions”, are required under federal law as an opportunity for families and schools to resolve issues raised in a due process complaint, in a less formal process and setting. While this process occurs at the local level and is the responsibility of LEAs to convene, State Education Agencies have the ultimate responsibility for this process under the general supervision requirements and are required to ensure that the process meets the statutory and regulatory requirements.
This process refers to special education mediation required under federal law. While states are required to offer a process that meets the statutory and regulatory requirements, there is considerable flexibility as to how states provide mediation services. This flexibility includes the selection, training and evaluation of practitioners who serve in the role of mediator and the manner in which the program is administered. State education agencies typically provide this process through one of four different approaches. Most states contract individually with private practitioners, a few states contract with their state-wide network of community mediation programs, and others contract with an organizational provider, such as a different state agency or institution of higher learning, often accessing institutional expertise in mediation and dispute resolution. Two states contract with a for-profit mediation firm through an RFP process.
A Written State Complaint procedure must be available under IDEA in every state. Each State Educational Agency must have written procedures for: resolving any complaint; the filing of a complaint with the State Educational Agency; and, widely disseminating the State complaint procedures.
In resolving a State complaint in which the State Educational Agency has found a failure to provide appropriate services, the State Educational Agency must address: the failure to provide appropriate services, including corrective action; and, appropriate future provision of services for all children with disabilities.
Full legal requirements may be found at: 34 CFR 300.151-153 (see page 46770 of full IDEA Regulations at: https://idea.ed.gov/download/finalregulations.pdf.
An OSEP approved Procedural Safeguards notice, including a specific description of written complaints (see page 14-17) is available at: https://idea.ed.gov/static/modelForms.html.
OSEP’s topical brief on Written Complaint Procedures can be found at:https://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/,root,dynamic,TopicalBrief,22,.html.
A due process complaint is a request to a local education agency (school district) and the State Education Agency for a hearing before an impartial hearing officer. This quasi-judicial procedure, as a method for resolving a disagreement, involves a filing by either a parent (in most cases) or a school district challenging the other party over a matter concerning the provision of free appropriate public education to a child who needs or is suspected of needing of special education and related services.
Due process complaints are the most contentious and adversarial of required dispute resolution processes under IDEA. Most due process complaints do not end up in a fully adjudicated hearing. Negotiations between the parties, usually involving attorneys, resolve in one way or another about 80% of all due process filings nationally (and a much higher percentage than that in most states).
What is Required of a Due Process Complaints System?
A Due Process Complaint (Hearings) System must be available under IDEA in every state. Each State Educational Agency must have in place mechanisms for:
Filing a due process complaint (a request for a hearing); a variety of options for the resolution of the complaint that involve the parent and the school reaching an agreement that addresses the basis of the complaint and obviates the need for a formal hearing; and, a system for the conduct of an impartial hearing and the issuance of a legally binding decision, where one is needed.
A system of appeal from that decision that will vary depending on state law and may involve either a state level review (where the initial hearing was conducted by a local agency) or an appeal to civil court.
Full legal requirements may be found at: 34 CFR 300.507 - 518 (see page 46793-46797 of full IDEA Regulations at: https://www2.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/finrule/2006-3/081406a.pdf).
An OSEP approved Procedural Safeguards notice, including a specific description of due process complaints safeguards (see pages 17 – 35) is available at: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/files/modelform-compendium.pdf.
OSEP’s topical brief on Procedural Safeguards: Resolution Meetings And Due Process Hearings can be found at: http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/%2Croot%2Cdynamic%2CTopicalBrief%2C22%2C.