Current as of October 2017
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There are times when you, as a parent, may want to communicate in writing with your child’s school about some problem or concern with your child’s education or well-being. This page presents a model letter or email you might write to file a complaint with the State Education Agency as an approach to resolving a dispute with your child’s school.
What’s a State complaint, and why would I file one?
There are several means of resolving conflicts with the school system, including mediation and due process. A third means is filing a complaint with the State Education Agency (SEA).
You have the right to file a complaint when you believe that the state or school district has violated a requirement of the IDEA. The SEA must resolve your complaint within 60 calendar days (not business days) from the day they receive it, unless there are exceptional circumstances with respect to the complaint. The complaint process can be effective in resolving conflicts with the school system and is less costly and intimidating than a due process hearing.
You can file a State complaint with the SEA about any of the matters for which you might otherwise file a request for a due process hearing, as well as for any other reason you feel that the school system has violated the IDEA. However, be aware that, if you write a complaint on an issue that is also part of a current due process hearing, the SEA will not investigate this issue. The due process hearing takes precedence over the State complaint process. The SEA will only investigate those issues in your State complaint that are not part of your due process hearing.
Some examples of issues you might write a State complaint about include:
Detailed information about the State complaint procedure is available here at the CPIR, beginning at: https://www.parentcenterhub.org/statecomplaint/
How do I file a complaint with the State Education Agency?
Your state’s policies for filing a State complaint should be included in its IDEA regulations. Call your local special education office or the SEA if you need more information about the policies. Also ask for the name and address of the person to whom you should write your letter. Your complaint must be signed. Among other things, it must also contain:
Seek advice | Whenever you file a State complaint (or seek mediation or due process), it is a good idea as well to seek advice from the Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) or the Protection and Advocacy Agency (P&A) in your state. Find your state’s PTI on our page “Find Your Parent Center” at: https://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center
The model letter below gives you an example of how you might write this complaint. Note that it is important to state what requirement of the law has been violated. The PTI or P&A in your state can help you identify the specific sections of IDEA to list in your complaint.
When writing any business letter, it is important to keep it short and to the point. First, start by asking yourself the following questions and state the answers in your letter:
Each letter you write should include the following basic information:
What are some other tips to keep in mind?
You want to make a good impression so that the person reading your letter will understand your request and say “yes.” Remember, this person may not know you, your child, or your child’s situation. Keep the tone of your letter pleasant and businesslike. Give the facts without letting anger, frustration, blame, or other negative emotions creep in. Some letter-writing tips include:
Today’s Date (include month, day, and year)
City, State, Zip Code
Daytime telephone number
Name of person to whom you’re writing
City, State, Zip Code
Dear (Person’s name),
I am writing to file a complaint on behalf of my son/daughter, (child’s name), regarding his/her education in the (name of school district). The nature of my complaint is as follows:
Explain the problem with BRIEF statements of fact. Consider listing the facts that support your complaint with bullets or numbers.
For the above reasons, I believe the school district is in violation of certain requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, specifically: (list the requirements of IDEA you feel the school system has violated. For example, “The school system has violated the following requirements of the IDEA:
Enclosed are copies of relevant documents and correspondence I have sent to and received from the school district concerning this matter. These documents are (List the documents you have enclosed, giving the date sent, by whom, to whom, and the issue discussed.) Please provide me with copies of any information you obtain in the process of investigating my complaint. If you need further information or clarification on my complaint, I can be reached at (give your phone number).
cc: school district special education director
your child’s principal
your advocate or attorney
Note: The “cc:” at the bottom of the letter means you are sending a copy of your letter to the people listed after the cc.
Highly Rated Resource! This resource was reviewed by 3-member panels of Parent Center staff working independently from one another to rate the quality, relevance, and usefulness of CPIR resources. This resource was found to be of “High Quality, High Relevance, High Usefulness” to Parent Centers.
Discussing a problem
Requesting a copy of your child’s records
Requesting an evaluation for special education services
Requesting an independent evaluation
Requesting a meeting to review your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Requesting a change in your child’s placement
Informing the school that you intend to place your child in a private school at public expense
Requesting prior written notice
Requesting mediation to resolve a conflict
Requesting a due process hearing to resolve a conflict
Filing a complaint with the State to resolve a conflict
(You’re already here.)
SOURCE ARTICLE: Center for Parent Information and Resources
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