Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy

The Special Education Survival Guide by Pam Wright & Pete Wright

 Home > FAQs: Resolving Problems and Disputes with the School

What's In Store at Wrightslaw?

The Advocate's Store

Special Ed Law & Advocacy Training (6.5 hrs)

25% Off the Wrightslaw Bundle of 4 PRINT books for $58.35 (Sorry, coupons not accepted on this product)

Includes Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Ed., Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Ed., Wrightslaw: All About IEPs and Wrightslaw: All About Tests and Assessments, 2nd Ed.  

Buy Now!

New! The Wrightslaw Bundle is now available as an immediate PDF download. All four Wrightslaw books as PDFs for just $49.95!

Buy Now!

FAQs: Resolving Problems and Disputes with the School

Print this page

Q: Is the school responsible for ensuring that my child reaches the goals in his or her IEP?

A: No. The IEP sets out the individualized instruction to be provided to your child, but it is not a contract. The school is responsible for providing the instructional services listed in an IEP. School officials must make a good-faith effort to help your child meet his or her goals. However, the school is not responsible if your child does not reach the goals listed in the IEP. If you feel that your child is not making progress toward his or her goals, then you may wish to contact the school and express your concerns. The IEP team may need to meet and revise your child's IEP.

Q: What if I disagree with the school about what is right for my child?

You have the right to disagree with the school's decisions concerning your
child. This includes decisions about:

  • your child's identification as a "child with a disability,"
  • his or her evaluation,
  • his or her educational placement, and
  • the special education and related services that the school provides to your

In all cases where the family and school disagree, it is important for both sides to first discuss their concerns and try to compromise. The compromise can be temporary.

For example, you might agree to try out a particular plan of instruction or classroom placement for a certain period of time. At the end of that period, the school can check your child's progress. You and other members of your child's IEP team can then meet again, talk about how your child is doing, and decide what to do next. The trial period may help you and the school come to a comfortable agreement on how to help your child.

If you still cannot agree with the school, it's useful to know more about the IDEA's protections for parents and children. The law and regulations include ways for parents and schools to resolve disagreements. These include:

  • mediation, where you and school personnel sit down with an impartial third
    person (called a mediator), talk openly about the areas where you disagree,
    and try to reach agreement;
  • due process, where you and the school present evidence before an impartial
    third person (called a hearing officer), and he or she decides how to resolve
    the problem; and

  • filing a complaint with the State Education Agency (SEA), where you write
    directly to the SEA and describe what requirement of IDEA the school has

The SEA must either resolve your complaint itself, or it can have a system where complaints are filed with the school district and parents can have the district's decision reviewed by the SEA. In most cases, the SEA must resolve your complaint within 60 calendar days.

Your state will have specific ways for parents and schools to resolve their differences. You will need to find out what your state's policies are. Your local department of special education will probably have these guidelines. If not, contact the state department of education and ask for a copy of their special education policies.

NOTE: The contact information for your state department of education is listed in your State Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities.

You may also wish to call the Parent Training and Information (PTI) center in your state. Check our Directory of PTIs.

Talking to Other Parents Helps!

You can learn a lot from talking to parents of children who are already receiving special education services. There are many different local parent groups. Find one, and go to a meeting. If there aren't any groups in your area, contact the nearest group and ask for its newsletter. These can be full of
information, too!

How do you find a parent group? Here are three strategies that will help you find a group.

Read Join a Parent Group.

Check your State Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities.

You should also check the Directory of Disabilities Organizations and Information Groups.


Q: How can I get more services for my child?

Suppose your child gets speech therapy two times a week, and you think he or she needs therapy three times a week. What do you do?

First, you can talk with your child's teacher or speech-language pathologist (sometimes called a speech therapist). Ask to see the evaluation of his or her progress.

If you are not satisfied with your child's progress, then request an IEP meeting to review your child's progress and increase speech therapy. Discuss your child's needs with the IEP team and talk about changing the IEP. The other team members will either agree with you and change the IEP, or they will
disagree with you.

If the rest of the IEP team does not agree that your child needs more services, try to work out a compromise. If you cannot, then parents can take the problem beyond the IEP team.

As was mentioned above, mediation, due process, and filing a complaint are ways to resolve disagreements. But always remember that you and the school will be making decisions together about your child's education for as long as your child goes to that school and continues to be eligible for special
education services. A good working relationship with school staff is important now and in the future. Therefore, when disagreements arise, try to work them out within the IEP team before requesting mediation or due process or before filing a complaint.

Q: How can I support my child's learning?

Here are some suggestions that can help you support your child's learning and maintain a good working relationship with school professionals:

Let your child's teacher(s) know that you want to be involved in your child's educational program. Make time to talk with the teacher(s) and, if possible, visit the classroom.

Explain any special equipment, medication, or medical problem your child has.

Let the teacher(s) know about any activities or big events that may influence your child's performance in school.

Ask that samples of your child's work be sent home. If you have questions, make an appointment with the teacher(s) to talk about new ways to meet your child's goals.

Ask the teacher(s) how you can build upon your child's school activities at home.

Give your child chores at home. Encourage behavior that leads to success in school, such as accepting responsibility, behaving, being organized, and being on time.

Volunteer to help in the classroom or school. This will let you see how things work in the school and how your child interacts with others. It will also help the school.

Remember that you and the school want success for your child. Working together can make this happen.

Q: What if I still have questions and need more information?

You can contact your state's Parent Training and Information (PTI) center. Your PTI will have a lot of information to share about the special education process in your state.

You can also contact NICHCY. We have information on all aspects of the IEP process. We also have information on other issues that are important to families who have a child with a disability. NICHCY staff can send you more publications (see NICHCY's catalog or visit our Web site at: www.nichcy.org), answer
questions, and put you in touch with other organizations who can work with you and your family.

It would be our pleasure!

Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy

For information about Schools and the Rules of the Game, read Chapter 4. Chapter 5 is Obstacles to Success. Chapter 6 is Resolving Parent-School Conflict. You will learn how to resolve a crisis in Chapter 7.

For information about IEP Meetings, read Chapter 25, Preparing for Meetings and Chapter 26, Meeting Strategies.

More FAQ Sheets on FetaWeb.com

FAQs about Special Education - What Is it? Who is Eligible?
FAQs about Your Child's Evaluation
FAQs about Your Child's Eligibility
FAQs about Writing IEPs
FAQs about Reevaluations
FAQs - Resolving Disputes with the School

This article is an excerpt from "Questions Often Asked by Parents about Special Education Services", NICHCY Briefing Paper LG1 (4th Edition), September 1999.

NICHCY Briefing Papers are developed in response to questions and concerns of individuals and organizations that contact the Clearinghouse. NICHCY disseminates other materials and can respond to individual requests for information.

This document was reviewed by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs for consistency with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997, Public Law 105-17, and the final implementing regulations published March 12, 1999.

For further information and assistance, or to receive a NICHCY Publications Catalog, contact:

P. O. Box 1492,
Washington, DC 20013
Phone: 1-800-695-0285 (Voice/TTY) and (202) 884-8200 (Voice/TTY).

Visit the NICHCY website at www.nichcy.org or e-mail at: nichcy@aed.org


Copyright 1998-2022, Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights reserved. Contact Us