Filing a Complaint in Texas
Complaint (noun): Expressing of dissatisfaction; the act of expressing dissatisfaction with something (Encarta Dictionary)
When you resolve your complaints or disagreements at the local level, everyone benefits, most importantly your child. It is a good practice for parents to try one more ARD/IEP meeting to attempt to resolve any disagreements before moving on to the formal complaint process. See also the Dispute Resolution Process and What to Know, Who to Call.
However, when you have run out of local level options and you believe state or federal education requirements have been/are being violated, you may wish to seek resolution through the Texas Education Agency’s complaints process. A complaint is usually the first step in the dispute resolution process. The Texas Education Agency is required to investigate complaints that violate the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or any state special education law or rule.
What Do I Need to Know About Filing a Complaint?
- In order for TEA to investigate a complaint, you must file your complaint in writing, stating that you are filing a complaint and asking TEA to investigate. The complaint must be signed and you must send a copy of the complaint to the school district at the same time. Many parents believe that a phone call to TEA will serve as a complaint. It does not.
- Your complaint must state the violations you believe have occurred and include the specific facts on which your complaint is based. The parent must provide at least two facts that support each allegation. Supporting documents may be attached as evidence. Documentation is key.
- Your complaint must be filed within one year of the alleged violation.
- Complaints filed with TEA do not cost anything, and a parent is not required to hire an attorney.
- Filing a complaint does not take away the right of parents to request mediation or due process. However, a complaint and a due process hearing may not be pursued at the same time if the issues are the same. TEA cannot investigate a complaint that is also the subject of a due process hearing or that is subject to a due process hearing in which a decision has been made.
- A complaint form is available on the TEA website in English and Spanish. This form is not required to file a complaint, but may serve as a good guide.
- If you have additional questions about the special education complaints process, please see the Special Education Dispute Resolution Handbook, which may be found on TEA’s website at http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/Legal_Services/Special_Education/Office_of_Legal_Services,_Special_Education_General_Information/.
Please note: the person or agency filing the complaint is called a “Complainant”.
Once TEA and your school district have received your complaint, the district may wish to resolve your complaint locally. Perhaps you and the district can reach an agreement that will resolve your complaint. If this happens, you will be asked to send a letter to the investigator withdrawing your complaint. Perhaps you and the district can agree to go to mediation.
However, if your complaint is not resolved at the local level or you do not wish to go to mediation, the school district may submit an early resolution proposal (ERP) to TEA. TEA then will have the option to accept the early resolution proposal or to reject it. If TEA does not accept the early resolution proposal, it will then investigate your complaint and make a determination. According to federal law, TEA has 60 days to investigate the complaint unless there are circumstances that make it necessary to extend the timelines. A written decision, including findings of fact and conclusions, will be sent to the parents upon completion.
A complaint must be mailed, hand-delivered, or faxed to:
Texas Education Agency
Division of Federal and State Education Policy
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas 78701-1494
Telephone: (512) 463-9414
Fax: (512) 463-9560
Note that IDEA 2004 now requires that parents send a copy of their complaint to the school district at the same time that they send it to TEA.
A number of useful resources are available from TEA - Dispute Resolution Process:
Complaint Investigation Procedures
Dispute Resolution Handbook
The Complaints Process is also outlined in the Procedural Safeguards document that parents receive at ARD meetings.
Disability Rights Texas also has a good handout available for parents on the complaint process that includes sample letters. It can be downloaded at http://www.disabilityrightstx.org/resources/education.
Center for Parent Information & Resources – State Complaint Procedures.