The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) has issued new guidance in response to concern that some public agencies are filing due process complaints concerning the same issue that is the subject of an ongoing State complaint to delay the State complaint process and force participation in due process hearings. This guidance serves as a reminder of required IDEA dispute resolution procedures for school districts, school staff, parents, and other stakeholders.
Importantly, OSERS clarifies that a State may not refuse to resolve a parent’s State complaint even if the State complaint concerns a matter that could also be the subject of a due process complaint. According to OSERS, this is true even if the State believes that a due process hearing is a more appropriate mechanism for resolving the dispute. OSERS further provides that some parents may have opted to file a State complaint rather than a due process complaint because of the “time, expense, and complexity” associated with a due process complaint, and as such, it is in the best interests of students and parents to respect the parents’ choice of forum for resolving disputes. OSERS reiterates that the purpose of IDEA’s dispute resolution procedures is to “give parents and schools expanded opportunities to resolve their disagreements in positive and constructive ways.”
Based on this guidance, school districts should ensure that they respect parents’ choice of forum for resolving disputes and do not refuse to resolve a State complaint by immediately filing a due process complaint on the same issue. OSERS also encourages school districts to attempt to engage parents in mediation or other informal dispute resolution procedures.