If Parents Don’t
Agree with the IEP

There are times when parents may not agree with the school’s recommendations about their child’s education. Under the law, parents have the right to challenge decisions about their child’s eligibility, evaluations, placement and the services he or she receives. If a parent is not satisfied with any aspect of a child’s special education program, there are alternatives, referred to as due process rights, that may be pursued.

A parent may request either mediation or a due process hearing on those matters that are in dispute. While due process is pursued, the child may remain in his or her present educational placement (“stay put”), unless the parent and public school district agree otherwise.

Try to reach an agreement

Parents should talk with school officials about their concerns and try to reach an agreement. Sometimes the agreement may be temporary. For example, the parents and school may agree to try a plan of instruction or a placement for a certain period of time and see how the child does. This is referred to as a “diagnostic placement” and requires that specific legal guidelines be followed.

Ask for mediation

Mediation is a voluntary process that may be used to resolve disputes between school districts and parents of a child with a disability. The law requires the mediation process to meet certain specific conditions.

Mediation must be voluntary on the

part of both parties: the parents and the school district. In other words, both parties must agree to take part.

Mediation may not be used by the

school district to deny or delay a child’s right to a hearing or to deny any other hearing or to deny any other rights under IDEA.

Mediation must be conducted

by a qualified and impartial mediator trained in effective mediation techniques.

Each session in the mediation

process must be scheduled in a timely manner and held at a location convenient to the parties in the dispute.

If a solution to the presenting

problem is reached by the parties involved, it must be set forth in a written mediation agreement.

Discussions that occur during

the mediation process are confidential; they may not be used as evidence in future due process hearings or civil proceedings.

Assignment of mediators

The State Dept. of Education contracts with qualified individuals to serve as mediators and, upon receipt of a mediation request, assigns a mediator to assist the parents and school district to reach an agreement. These mediators are neither current nor former State Dept. of Education employees.

File for due process

Unlike mediation, a due process hearing is a formal, legal procedure. Like mediation, a due process hearing may be initiated concerning any matter related to the child’s identification, evaluation, educational placement or aspect of his or her special education services.

A due process hearing involves a hearing officer (impartial third party) who hears the evidence presented by the parents and the district (including the testimony of witnesses) and who subsequently issues a decision based upon the evidence and the requirements of IDEA.

If the parents and district disagree on an issue and the parents want to request a due process hearing, they

must do so within two years. It is best, however, to do so as soon as possible. As part its ongoing responsibilities under IDEA, the school

district is required to give parents notice of the two-year deadline.


How to Be an Effective Advocate for Your Child

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