The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that States make available formal processes for families of children with disabilities age 3 through 21 and public schools to resolve special education-related disputes. Specifically, the Arizona Department of Education is required to offer mediation (34 C.F.R. § 300.506), a due process hearing system (§ 300.507), and a state administrative complaint system through which the Department can investigate alleged violations of the IDEA (§§ 300.151 through 153).
Resolution at the Local Level
Special education disputes are best resolved at the earliest stages by those parties most involved in a child’s education – namely the child’s parents and school staff members of the IEP team. Parents and school staff are encouraged to communicate and work together to reach an agreement that is in the best interest of the child. Parents may also request in writing that the school reconvene the IEP team to discuss questions or concerns.
Each district or charter school also has a special education director or coordinator that parents can contact if problems still exist. The special education director can often assist the IEP team in finding a mutual agreement or resolution. To find the contact information for the special education director or coordinator for each school district or charter school, visit the ADE Public School Search and type the name of the school in the search bar on the left side of the screen.
When a resolution cannot be reached at the local level, the Arizona Department of Education offers several resolution options.
Options for Addressing Concerns About Special Education
- Early Resolution – Provides technical assistance to parents and schools seeking early resolution of complaints, in addition to providing guidance on the formal dispute resolution options available under the IDEA.
- Mediation - An informal, voluntary process during which an impartial mediator helps parents and schools experiencing conflict reach a suitable agreement about a student’s special education program. Mediation is a problem-solving process rather than an adversarial process that allows the parties to communicate directly with each other as they work toward a mutually agreeable solution.
- Due Process Hearing System – The most formal of the dispute resolution options, a due process hearing may be used to resolve any matter relating to the identification, evaluation, placement of a child, or the provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to the child.
- State Administrative Complaint System – Part of the State’s general supervisory authority, this is the process through which members of the community can alert the state education agency (SEA) of potential noncompliance with the IDEA in the public schools.
Dispute Resolution offers recorded webinars. Please visit the Training Resources page.
Helpful Resources and Links
- Dispute Resolution Informational Booklet
- Procedural Safeguards English
- Aviso de las Salvaguardias Procesales
- Arizona Center for Disability Law
- Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings
- CADRE – Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education
- CADRE – Parent Guides to Dispute Resolution
- Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
- Office for Special Education Programs (OSEP)
- Raising Special Kids (RSK)
- United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit
Arizona Department of Education, Dispute Resolution
1535 W. Jefferson St., Bin #62
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Tel: (602) 542-3084
Fax: (602) 364-0641
For questions please call the Dispute Resolution Coordinator at the number listed above.
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