Independent Educational Plan Disputes

Disagreements between parents and the school system can be frustrating and difficult to resolve. Compromise and negotiation are always the best first methods to finding an amicable resolution. However, when an agreement simply cannot be reached, it will be necessary for you to put your advocacy skills to the test.

Stern Law, PLLC seeks to provide parents with the resources they need to advocate effectively on their special child’s behalf. For more information about helping your child thrive, please call (800) 462-5772 for free today.

What should I do in the event of a disagreement?

There are several disagreements that may arise during your quest to obtain the best possible special education services for your child. Commonly, parents might not agree with the proposed goals in the Independent Educational Plan (IEP), the services recommended, or their child’s placement. The following is a list of steps to take when you do not agree with the IEP team:

  • Note your disagreement. Discussed above, you may consent to implementation of the IEP, but write your disagreement and reasons why on the document and ensure they are reflected in the minutes;
  • Ask for another IEP meeting. At the new meeting, bring any additional information you have gathered and explain your reasons for your position. Ask for “Prior Written Notice”, as this will let you know that the IEP team has made a final decision with which you disagree.
  • Contact the school principal and special education director in writing. Explain the IEP team’s decision and why you disagree with it. Notice your intent to appeal the decision if action is not taken. You could request to meet with the principal or that another IEP meeting be held with the special education director present.
  • Seek help. When you have reached a major disagreement with the school system, it might be beneficial to seek the services of a professional special educational advocate. An education advocate may have creative suggestions for you and can be a strong supportive force at meetings or hearings moving forward.
  • Consider mediation. You have the right to request mediation using a qualified mediator who is not a part of the school system. Mediation is one of the best ways to resolve a conflict. IEP mediation will allow parents to hear the school district’s reasoning and point of view, and provides a forum for parents to voice their disagreement and rationale. Mediation may also help maintain a relationship with the school district which is important for your child moving forward. During mediation, both parties must agree to a proposed solution. The following are some vital facts to know before proceeding with mediation:
    • Mediation will be held at a time and place convenient for you;
    • It will generally take all day;
    • You can bring with you anyone you wish, including a professional special educational advocate;
    • Prepare your case as strongly as possible, leaning heavily on the law, objective data, and your child’s individual needs;
    • Mediation can result in one of four outcomes: a full settlement, wherein an agreement is reached and all parties are happy; a partial settlement, with some issues still remaining; no settlement, but the parties agree to try another time; or no settlement and the parties have decided to go to a due process hearing to resolve the issues.
  • If you cannot reach an agreement through mediation, you have the right to request a due process hearing. At the hearing, you and the school district will submit written evidence about the disputed issues and can call witnesses to testify before a hearing officer.
    • Here are some more facts about due process hearings:
      • You may wish to consider hiring a special education advocate or a lawyer to argue on your child’s behalf at the hearing. This can increase your chances of success, but will come at a cost;
      • The school district does not have to pay your legal fees but you can request they do so as part of a proposed settlement;
      • If you succeed at the hearing, you will be entitled to reimbursement of attorney’s fees;
      • You have two years from the date on which you know of the dispute to formally file for IEP due process. You must initiate the process in writing using a required form;
      • If the hearing officer rules against you, you have the right to appeal the decision all the way to state or federal court. An experienced special education attorney will provide you with further guidance on this step.
  • Filing a complaint. If the school district has violated a legal rule, rather than just developed an IEP you disagree with, you can file a complaint. Examples of potential violations include failure to: perform a special education evaluation, hold an IEP meeting, discuss goals, services, or placements, implement the IEP, or change the IEP when necessary. Your school district will have a particular form to use to file a complaint. Your complaint should include a description of the violation and the remedy you are seeking. Within 60 days, the state must issue a decision. Often, the school will attempt to resolve the issue before it reaches the county or state level.

We recognize the lengths dedicated parents must go to so their child can get an appropriate education that meets the needs of their disability. Stern Law, PLLC strives to provide a robust resource for parents advocating for their children as they begin their educational journey. For more information about assistance with non-legal issues, please call us at (800) 462-5772 today.

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