Dispute Resolution Methods


If you have a special education concern that you feel is not being properly addressed, meeting face to face is a good way to work on a solution. People are usually much more willing to work collaboratively when meeting in person.

  • Face-to-face meetings also eliminate the risk of miscommunication, which is more likely to happen over email or the phone.
  • Come to the meeting with clear intentions and goals.
  • Be willing to listen to one another, and try earnestly to solve the conflict there.
  • Ask for an informal parent-teacher meeting, and perhaps include others such as administration or related services staff as needed.

CADRE

CADRE is The National Center on Dispute Resolution in Special Education "encouraging the use of mediation and other collaborative strategies to resolve disagreements about special education and early intervention programs."

Tips for Family Members

Webinars about dispute resolution hosted by CADRE


If your efforts are not successful, you have the right to access the formal dispute resolution methods offered under the Individuals with Education Act, as well as the ability to file a Complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, for any situations in which you believe that your child has been discriminated against as a result of being a child with a disability. 


Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Complaint

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) enforces laws that prohibit discrimination based on disability and other protected groups.  The OCR enforces the anti-discrimination mandates within the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  Both of these laws apply to students on IEP's, who qualify for special education, and to students on 504 Plans who qualify for accommodations, but do not qualify for special education.

The OCR is an available resource for a student on an IEP or 504 Plan who has been discriminated against based on their disability.

Click on the Office of Civil Rights button above to view information about an OCR Complaint or to view the OCR Complaint from.  


Mediation

Mediation is an option for parents who are in disagreement with school.  The Colorado Department of Education has a list of trained mediators. A mediator is an impartial person who works with both sides of a dispute to find an agreement that is satisfactory to all.

Mediation is optional, however both parties have to agree to participate. This is not a legal procedure where evidence is presented and legal jargon is spoken. What is shared in mediation is considered confidential and can not be used in a due process hearing or lawsuit.

If the disagreement is resolved and an agreement is met, the law states that the agreement be in writing and become a legally binding contract.

Click on the Department of Education button above to view information about State Complaints or to view the State Complaint from.  


State Complaints:

If you believe that the school has violated the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA), you have the right to file a State Complaint with the Department of Education.

A parent files a complaint with the Colorado of Department of Education when there has been a clear violation of IDEA. The written complaint is sent to the Federal Complaint officer, Colorado Dept. of Ed., 201 East Colfax, Denver, CO 80203. The complaint should describe how the violation occurred, who were involved, when it happened, and what was done or not done.

Once the federal complaint officer receives the complaint, he/she has within 10 days to accept or reject the complaint. If the officer rejects the complaint, he/she has within 10 days after the decision is made to inform parents.

Click on the Department of Education button above to view information about State Complaints or to view the State Complaint from.  


Due Process Hearing

Another option for parents is to have a Due Process Hearing.

A parent has within two years from when an incident occurred to file a due process hearing. However, this doesn’t apply if a parent thought the school had resolved the problem and realized at a later date that the school didn’t, or if the school didn’t share information to parents required under the law.

A parent begins the process by writing a letter to their school district and to the Colorado Department of Education. The letter must contain the following:

1. Your child’s name and address
2. The name of the school your child attends
3. A description of the incident
4. How you believe the incident can be resolved

The school district must respond to your letter within 10 days.

A due process hearing is a legal procedure where the following takes place: evidence is presented, lawyers are in attendance, witnesses are cross-examined and witnesses are subpoenaed if necessary.  The hearing officer is impartial. He/she does not work for the Colorado Department of Education or work for the school district. They have an understanding of IDEA and legal procedures and practices.

Before the hearing occurs, the law requires that a resolution process takes place within 15 days of the school district receiving a parent’s letter. This doesn’t have to occur if both the parents and school district agree, in writing, that they want to skip the resolution process. The resolution process is where the IEP team meets again and tries to resolve the conflict one last time before going to due process.

You have the right to appeal a hearing officer’s decision. You can file a civil action in state or federal court but you only have 90 days after receiving the hearing officer’s decision to file.

Click on the Department of Education button above to view information about State Complaints or to view the State Complaint from.  


Contact us at the THRIVE Center.  We are a resource for parents and other community members to learn more about special education, rights and responsibilities, and the law.