What to Do If You Disagree With the School District
There are several different ways to resolve a dispute between you and the school district. Some things you may disagree with the school district on are whether your child is eligible for ESE services or a 504 Plan, how many minutes of services your child gets, what type of placement your child is in, etc. Remember, Parents have the right to disagree with decisions that the school makes with respect to their child with a disability! Parents have both informal and formal legal remedies to resolve these issues.
Try to Compromise! It’s important to discuss your concerns and try to reach a compromise. The compromise can be temporary. For example, you and the school might both agree to test out a plan of instruction or a particular educational placement for a certain period of time. At the end of that period, you and the IEP team can meet again, discuss progress and next steps. This “test period” can help you and the schools reach a comfortable agreement over how to help your child.
Pause the meeting and continue another day! If you aren’t making progress at a meeting, often taking a break or rescheduling the meeting is useful. It allows all parties time to calm down and consider the information presented. Think about your specific concerns, write them out, and bring them to the meeting. Try explaining your concerns in a different way to help the IEP team better understand your perspective.
Elevate the Issue in the District! You may consider reaching out to the Area ESE Office, Director of ESE, or the ADA/504 Specialist for the District. These individuals often have more experience and can help prevent problems from escalating.
Bring Support! Consider inviting a friend, case manager, advocate, or attorney to help you express your concerns, as advocating for your own child is difficult. Having a third party at the meeting can be very useful!
And if parents and the school still can’t agree, what should parents do?
If you and the school still cannot agree, review your procedural safeguards! They include ways in which parents and schools can resolve disputes. Remember, procedural safeguards differ under the two laws – IDEA and Section 504.
Mediation is where you and the school sit down with a third person who is impartial (called a mediator), which allows you to talk openly about the areas of disagreement and try to reach a resolution.
Due Process happens when you cannot reach a decision through mediation or if you prefer not to mediate. You can request a due process hearing, which is essentially a trial before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The Florida Department of Education’s website FDLE.org has forms to fill out and information on the process. Click Here
- Filing due process will trigger “stay put”, which allows your child to stay in his or her current placement with his or her current level of supports and services while the dispute is being resolved.
- If you disagree with the decision, it can be appealed to Federal Court.
State complaint is where you communicate in writing to the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) and describe the provision of IDEA that you feel the school has violated within the past calendar year. FLDOE investigates and the school district is given a chance to respond. It should be resolved within 60 days. If you are unhappy, you can appeal the decision by requesting due process.
Section 504 Remedies
Discrimination Grievance is simply a letter claiming the school violated Section 504 sent to School Districts ADA/504 Specialist. The School District has a form you can fill out too. They will investigate your claim and write a formal report.
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a catchall term for different ways to work through a conflict. This often includes mediation. Mediation is when you and the school try to reach an agreement with the help of neutral third person. Some, but not all, states and schools offer ADR for 504 plan disputes.
Impartial Hearing is like a short trial where you present your side of the story. You need to send a letter to the school district, formally requesting an impartial hearing. For specifics on how to request an impartial hearing, ask the School District’s ADA/504 Specialist.
Office for Civil Rights Complaint is similar to a Discrimination Grievance but it is sent to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for the U.S. Department of Education. You must file the complaint within 180 days of the violation.
This information for taken from Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County’s Education Toolkit. To learn how to get a Toolkit or see if they can provide you for legal assistance call 561.655.8944 x285.
Provided by: Erica Sonn, Esq. Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc. Education Advocacy Project: 423 Fern St. Suite 200 West Palm Beach 33401.
Written by: Iris Neil