The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its implementing regulations require states to have a system to resolve disputes between parents of students with disabilities and local school districts.
Usually, parents and school personnel have a good relationship in which they work together to make decisions about a child’s education. However, there may be times when parents and school personnel do not agree. Often, these disagreements can be resolved by a meeting between the parents and a school representative. By working together informally, parents and school personnel are able to maintain a positive relationship and can usually resolve their disagreement more quickly than they can address the matter through a more formal process such as a due process hearing or a formal written complaint.
To help parents understand the rights of student, parents, and school districts, information about federal special education regulations is available here. Information about Kentucky special education regulations is available here.
If a disagreement arises, the Kentucky Department of Education suggests that parents first contact the local director of special education (DoSE) to make the DoSE aware of the problem. A list of school websites, to help parents locate and contact the local DoSE, is available here. Parents usually find this contact most successful if they first look at and familiarize themselves with the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and what it requires. To make the most of the contact with the DoSE, parents should be able to explain clearly explain their specific questions and concerns.
If these methods do not resolve the disagreement, three other conflict resolution options are available.
Parties may resolve IDEA disputes through:
• A Formal Written Complaint; or
• A Due Process Hearing
An explanation of each process, along with the model forms used to request each process can be found below.
Mediation is a voluntary and non-adversarial dispute resolution process. The meeting is facilitated by an impartial trained mediator and is focused on the needs of the student. The parent and district meet and work together to settle the dispute and develop a final agreement.
A successful mediation can help preserve good relationships between the parties involved. Mediation can be requested at any time and does not rule out the use of the formal written complaint or due process hearing.
Below are links to information about mediation and the mediation request form:
Formal Written Complaints
A formal written complaint is a written statement alleging that a school district has violated a requirement of state or federal special education law.
A formal written complaint must be:
- Filed with DLS within one year of the alleged violation
- May be filed by a parent of a student with a disability or by any organization or person who believes IDEA has been violated
A formal written complaint should not address the following issues:
- Violations of civil rights related to a disability (Section 504 or Americans with Disabilities issues)
- Claims of child abuse or neglect
- Matters under the sole authority of the local school district, such as employment of a teacher, assignments of teachers, or pupil assignments).
Although the above issues may involve violations of the law, a formal written complaint addresses only procedural violations of IDEA.
Download the Formal Written Complaint Form
Due Process Hearings
A due process hearing is an adversarial process in which a hearing officer resolves IDEA disagreements between parents and the school districts. The hearing may be requested on any matter involving:
- Educational placement and services, and
- The provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
A due process hearing must be requested in writing and must be filed within three (3) years of the date the parent or district knew or should have known about the issue. State statute sets out three (3) exceptions to the time limit, all related to omissions or misrepresentations by the school district.
Before a hearing may be held, the parties are required to hold a Resolution Meeting so that the district has an opportunity to resolve the dispute that led to the hearing request. The Resolution Meeting is not held if the parties agree to Mediation or if the parties agree to waive the meeting.
Download the Due Process Hearing Request form:
For general questions regarding special education, contact:
Division of Learning Services
Telephone: (502) 564-4970
Capital Plaza Tower
500 Mero Street, 18th Floor
Frankfort KY 40601
For questions regarding special education due process, contact:
Office of Guiding Support Services
Telephone: (502) 564-4474
Capital Plaza Tower
500 Mero Street, 1st Floor
Frankfort KY 40601
Educational Advocacy/ Legal Services Organizations:
- Children’s Law Center – Covington
1002 Russell Street, Covington, KY 41011
- Kentucky Special Parent Involvement Network (KY-SPIN, Inc.)
10301-B Deering Rd.
Louisville, KY 40272
Fax: (502) 937-6464
- Protection and Advocacy
100 Fair Oaks Lane, Third Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601
- Appalachian Research & Defense Fund: Telephone 866-277-5733
- Legal Aid of Kentucky: Telephone 800-782-1924
- Legal Aid of the Bluegrass: Telephone 800-888-8189
- Legal Aid Society: Telephone 800-292-1862