Special Education Dispute Resolution

LINK: Special Education Tip of the Week (http://www.azed.gov/special-education/dispute/tip-of-the-week/)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).

NOW AVAILABLE —  Dispute Resolution Listserv — If you would like to sign-up for the the Dispute Resolution Listserv, please add your e-mail address through this link.  Once registered, you will receive information on upcoming events, trainings, and hot topics in dispute resolution.

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.

Training Resources

  • Dispute Resolution offers recorded webinars.  Please visit the Training Resources page for more information.
  • The Facilitated IEP page features links to upcoming trainings and resources for the IEP team. Visit the Facilitated IEP page for more information.

Upcoming Training and Events

Registration now open for our February 4-5, 2015 Facilitated IEP Training. IEP facilitation is a student-focused process in which a trained individual (facilitator) assists the IEP team in developing an IEP that provides a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to the student. The Dispute Resolution Unit believes there are three components needed to facilitate a successful IEP meeting: standardized meeting practices; knowledge of the IEP process; and the use of meeting management skills that aid in minimizing conflict and maximizing collaboration. This training is designed to teach these three components. This two-day training at the Peoria Unified School District is $75.00 and includes breakfast, lunch, and training materials. Please register through ADE’s Calendar of Events.

  • February 4-5, 2015 at Peoria Unified School District

Registration is now open for Administrators Academy. This academy is a brick-by-brick approach to building knowledgeable, empowered leaders in special education.This academy is geared toward the following: school leaders, such as principals and assistant principals, who want to better understand their role in the special education process; special education directors looking for a more comprehensive understanding of the intricate legalities involved in special education; and special education practitioners who are interested in the legal foundations and purposes of their jobs. This four-day academy will occur from 9:00 – 3:00 on the dates listed in the box below. The location is the East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) in Mesa. The registration fee for the four-day academy is $150 (includes continental breakfast and lunch). Please register through ADE’s Calendar of Events. The registration deadline is September 30, 2014.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
  • Thursday, December 4, 2014
  • Friday, February 6, 2015
  • Friday, April 24, 2015

Registration is now open for Breaking the Code: Deciphering the Discipline Procedures in the IDEA. This comprehensive half-day training is designed as an interactive experience for participants to learn the ins and outs of the discipline procedures outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It’s a perfect training for any administrators, special educators, and others who are involved in disciplining students with disabilities and who want to make sure they are following the law. Two sessions are planned: Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at the ADE office in Flagstaff; and Friday, October 3, 2014 at the ADE office on West Jefferson in Phoenix. There is no charge for this training. Please register through ADE’s Calendar of Events. The deadline for registration is August 29, 2014. The Flagstaff session will be rescheduled at a date TBA.

Helpful Resources and Links

Contact Us

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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