What if Things Aren’t Right? Can I Do Anything About It?
Let’s face it…even in the best of circumstances, sometimes things don’t go as they should…or as you think they should. Many parent concerns can and should be handled at the local level and it’s thereby in everyone’s best interest to make every attempt at resolution there first. Start with the person directly responsible and move up your school district’s chain of command. You may have to ask how chain of command works; ask a teacher, your school’s principal or someone in the Administration Office (See also What to Know, Who To Call). You can also contact your local Education Service Center. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) parent information toll-free line may be able to provide some guidance. (Note: the toll-free line is answered by voice mail. Trained professionals return those calls during business hours, and usually within 24 hours.)
A Facilitated IEP/ARD meeting may also be an option at the local level. For more information or training opportunities, contact your local Education service center.
Bottom line: when you resolve your complaints or disagreements at the local level, everyone wins, most importantly your child. Parents should always try one more ARD/IEP meeting to attempt to resolve any disagreements before moving on to other dispute resolution options.
Let’s say you’ve done all you can at the local level. There are three options available to address conflict through TEA. Those options are:
- File a complaint with the Texas Education Agency. For more information on filing a complaint, click here.
- Request Mediation, a process that allows parents and school districts to work out disagreements without litigation (without involving a court of law). For more information on Mediation, click here.
- Request a Due Process Hearing, a (involving a hearing officer and lawyers, much like a trial at a courthouse) for more information on Due Process Hearings, click here.
- Resolution Session, a last-ditch effort to resolve the complaint before actually going to a Due Process Hearing. The Resolution Session is a new addition to the IDEA 2004. For more information on the Resolution Session, click here.
TEA Dispute Resolution Systems Handbook and Dispute Resolution Processes
Region 20 – Access to the General Curriculum has two documents that may assist in answering some of your questions before proceeding with various dispute resolution options:
- Standards Based IEP Question & Answer (There is also a free online training)
- Least Restrictive Environment Question and Answer
Office for Civil Rights - Another option is to file a complaint of discrimination with the Office For Civil Rights (OCR). This kind of complaint is not specific to special education, but your issue could fall under the guidelines of discrimination. For more information on the OCR complaints process, click here.
Family Policy Compliance Office (FERPA & PPRA) – If your issue involves a possible violation of access to, amendment to, or disclosure of your child’s educational records OR the participation of your minor child in a US Dept of Ed. survey, you may be referred to the Family Policy Compliance office.
Texas Dept. of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) – If you suspect a child, an elderly person, or a person with a disability has been subject to abuse or neglect, you are required to report it to the Texas Dept. of Family and Protective Services within 48 hours of suspected abuse.
Office Of General Inquiries – If you suspect a violation of ethics or other misconduct has arisen with an educator, this may be the place to file a complaint.
Complaints addressed by other agencies – health standards, criminal conduct, fraud, waste & abuse, open meetings, sports programs, etc.