The federal regulations that implement the IDEA require each State to have in place a system for resolving any special education-related complaints, including those filed by organizations or individuals from other states. [34 C.F.R. § 300.151(a)] Unlike mediation or a due process hearing, which can only be requested by the parent of a child with a disability (or an adult student with a disability if rights have transferred) or a public education agency, any member of the community may file a complaint alleging that a public school has violated a requirement of Part B of the IDEA. This includes parents, advocates, attorneys, school personnel, etc. It is important to note that the State Educational Agency must maintain the confidentiality of student information and will not disclose or discuss confidential student information with a non-parent complainant unless the child’s parent provides written consent. For more information about the state complaint process, visit the state complaint webpage or contact the Dispute Resolution unit at 602-542-3084.
No. Although anyone can file a state administrative complaint alleging a procedural violation of the IDEA [34 C.F.R. § 300.153(a)], the regulations that implement the IDEA specify that a “parent or a public agency may file a due process complaint on any [ ] matter [ ] . . . relating to the identification, evaluation or educational placement of a child with a disability, or the provision of [a] FAPE to the child.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.507(a)] Because “[a]ll rights accorded to parents under [the IDEA] transfer to the child” when that child reaches the age of majority according to 34 C.F.R. § 300.520(a)(1)(ii), a child who reaches the age of majority may also file a due process complaint.
Either a parent of a child with a disability or a public education agency may request mediation as a way to resolve disputes involving any matter that arises under the IDEA or its implementing regulations. [34 C.F.R. § 506(a)] Mediation may be used to resolve issues in a due process complaint or it may be requested, by the parent or the school, to address concerns or disputes that arise prior to the filing of a due process complaint. Mediation must be voluntary on the part of both parties and may not be used to deny or delay a parent’s right to a due process hearing. The Arizona Department of Education maintains a list of qualified mediators who are trained annually in the area of special education law. For more information on the benefits of mediation, visit the Dispute Resolution webpage or contact the Dispute Resolution unit at 602-542-3084.
IEP teams are encouraged to work toward consensus, but when this is not possible the individual designated as the public education agency representative on the IEP team must make a final decision and notify the parent of the decision via prior written notice (PWN). [Pasatiempo v. Aizawa, 103 F. 3d 796 (9th Cir. 1996)] While parents do not have veto power over IEP team decisions, they may challenge an IEP team decision that they disagree with by requesting mediation or filing a due process complaint against the school. [34 C.F.R. §§ 300.506(a) and 300.507(a) respectively] The IDEA provides these procedural safeguards as a means for resolving disputes between parents and schools concerning the identification, evaluation, placement, or the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
In a State complaint investigation, the State Education Agency (SEA) is required to issue a written decision that “addresses each allegation in the complaint and contains findings of fact, conclusions of law, and the reasons for the SEA’s final decision.” [34 C.F.R. § 300.152(a)(5)] The U.S. Department of Education has stated, “The regulations neither prohibit nor require the establishment of procedures to permit [a school] or other party to request reconsideration of a State complaint decision. We have chosen to be silent in the regulations about whether a State complaint decision may be appealed because we believe States are in the best position to determine what, if any, appeals process is necessary to meet each State’s needs, consistent with State law.” [34 C.F.R. Part 300, Analysis of Comments and Changes, Subpart B – State Eligibility, Federal Register, Vol.71, No. 156, p. 46607 (August 2006)]
In Arizona, if the public education agency disagrees with a finding made in a state complaint, it may bring an action for administrative review pursuant to A.R.S. § 41-1092.03. The request for administrative review must be in writing and filed with the Arizona Department of Education (Department) within 30 calendar days of receiving the Investigation Report. [A.R.S. § 41-1092.03(B)] Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education has explained, “[i]f after the SEA’s final decision is issued, a party who has the right to request a due process hearing and who disagrees with the SEA’s decision may initiate a due process hearing, provided that the subject of the State complaint involves an issue about which a due process hearing can be filed and the two-year statute of limitations for due process hearings (or other time limit imposed by State law) has not expired.” [34 C.F.R. Part 300, Analysis of Comments and Changes, Subpart B – State Eligibility, Federal Register, Vol.71, No. 156, p. 46607 (August 2006)]