Dispute Resolution Video 1
The special education process has multiple pressure points that can lead to conflict. Parents and school staff may disagree when designing a child’s special education services or planning various aspects of service delivery. In other cases, schools and parents may experience relationship-oriented conflicts stemming from a loss of trust, communication breakdown, or cultural differences. The Utah State Board of Education (USBE) supports a range of alternative dispute resolution options that schools and families can access when seeking to find agreement or resolve disputes about special education related matters.
Quick Guide to Special Education Dispute Resolution Processes for Parents of Children and Youth (Ages 3-21)
Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE)
To ensure the timely response to requests for dispute resolution services from the Utah State Board of Education (USBE), all requests must be submitted using one of the following methods:
Mediations, Individualized Education Plan (IEP) facilitations, and due process hearings may be conducted virtually in accordance local health guidelines.
IEP Facilitation is a voluntary process where IEP Facilitators, who are not part of the IEP team, can assist in instances when an IEP meeting is likely to cover unresolved or adversarial issues between schools and families. IEP Facilitators can create an agenda and ground rules, guide team discussions using student-focused questions, and assist the team in resolving conflicts that may arise during the meeting. Throughout the meeting, an IEP facilitator models effective communication and listening skills and helps to clarify points of agreement and disagreement. Because this process takes place in the context of an IEP meeting, a separate meeting is not needed to formalize any agreements that are reached. This method of dispute resolution is collaborative, relationship focused, and typically time efficient.
Mediation is a voluntary process that can be used to resolve disagreements between families and schools at any point of special education planning or implementation. Mediation draws on the strengths of both parties to foster mutual problem solving without assigning blame or fault and empowers schools and families to work together to explore issues, make decisions, and design solutions in a confidential manner that results in a legally binding agreement. Mediation can be less time consuming, less costly, less adversarial than other more formal dispute resolution options listed below and requests can be made within a short time frame.
If you believe that a district, public charter school, or other public agency in the State that provides special education and related services to children with disabilities has violated a requirement of federal and/or State special education laws or regulations, you may file an IDEA State Complaint. When you file an IDEA State Complaint, USBE assigns a contracted investigator to gather and review relevant facts, apply the law to those facts, identify legal issues, draft a reasoned decision with legal conclusions, and order certain remedies if appropriate. The complaint investigator may request documentation related to the facts in a complaint, interview parties, or perform on-site visits. With certain exceptions, USBE has 60 days to issue an IDEA State Complaint decision from the time the complaint is filed with both the Local Educational Agency (LEA) and USBE. IDEA State Complaints are a more formal and less collaborative method of dispute resolution than IEP facilitation or mediation.
Prior to seeking a hearing or other formal proceedings, the parties to a dispute must first make a good faith effort to resolve the dispute informally at the school building level under Utah law. If the dispute is not resolved, a party may request a due process hearing for matters involving placement, identification, evaluation, or the provision of a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Due process hearings are the most formal and adversarial method of special education dispute resolution. A due process hearing involves a due process hearing officer acting like a judge to issue a legally reasoned decision following a hearing. Due process hearings frequently involve attorneys due to the more court-like nature of the proceedings, including attending prehearing conferences, filing motions and responses, making objections, calling witnesses and submitting exhibits at the hearing, making opening and closing arguments, having knowledge of substantive laws and procedural rules, and adhering to IDEA timelines and orders from the hearing officer. Depending on the circumstances of the dispute, this dispute resolution process may be rather time-consuming and may occur over the course of several months. Due to the more complex nature and potential time involved, due process hearings can often result in significant attorney’s fees.
Parent to Parent Assistance - Parents of children with disabilities who have already learned to successfully navigate the special education system are often a valuable yet underutilized resource. Did you know that the Utah Parent Center (UPC) sponsors a cadre of IEP Coaches who are available to assist parents in preparing for IEP meetings (and even attend IEP meetings when possible)? Thanks to collaboration between the USBE, the UPC, and multiple LEAs, trained Parent Consultants are another available resource that can help parents prepare for IEP meetings and mediation, engage in self-advocacy, and better understand the special education process through access to training, networking opportunities, and other informational resources. When seeking assistance, many parents welcome the opportunity to work with another parent who can empathize with some of the barriers and shared experiences that parents face when raising children with special needs. Through participation in this process, many parents gain a sense of empowerment as they become more confident and better equipped to advocate for their child when future issues arise.
IDEA Special Education Written State Complaints A Guide for Parents of Children and Youth (Ages 3-21)
Quejas por Escrito sobre Educación Especial de IDEA ante el Estado Guía para padres de niños y adolescentes (de 3 a 21 años de edad)