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As published in CLSF News, Vol 10 - Issue 2, March, 2001

What If Parents Don't Agree With the IEP?

See full article here (PDF format)

Each public school child who receives special education and related services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Each IEP must be designed for one student and must be a truly individualized document. The IEP creates an opportunity for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel, and students (when appropriate) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities. The IEP is the cornerstone of a quality education for each child with a disability.

There are times when parents may not agree with the school's recommendations about their child's education. Under the law, parents have the right to challenge decisions about their child's eligibility, evaluation, placement, and the services that the school provides to the child. If parents disagree with the school's actions-or refusal to take action-in these matters, they have the right to pursue a number of options. They may do the following:

Try to reach an agreement. Parents can talk with school officials about their concerns and try to reach an agreement. Sometimes the agreement can be temporary. For example, the parents and school can agree to try a plan of instruction or a placement for a certain period of time and see how the student does.
Ask for mediation. During mediation, the parents and school sit down with someone who is not involved in the disagreement and try to reach an agreement. The school may offer mediation, if it is available as an option for resolving disputes prior to due process.

Ask for due process. During a due process hearing, the parents and school personnel appear before an impartial hearing officer and present their sides of the story. The hearing officer decides how to solve the problem. (Note: Mediation must be available at least at the time a due process hearing is requested.)

File a complaint with the state education agency. To file a complaint, generally parents write directly to the SEA and say what part of IDEA they believe the school has violated. The agency must resolve the complaint within 60 calendar days. An extension of that time limit is permitted only if exceptional circumstances exist with respect to the complaint.


OSEP Monitoring

The U.S. Department of Educationís Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) regularly monitors states to see that they are complying with IDEA. Every two years OSEP requires that states report progress toward meeting established performance goals that, at a minimum, address the performance of children on assessments, drop-out rates, and graduation rates. As part of its monitoring, the Department reviews IEPs and interviews parents, students, and school staff to find out:

bulletwhether, and how, the IEP team made the decisions reflected in the IEP;
bulletwhether those decisions and the IEP content are based on the childís unique needs, as determined through evaluation and the IEP process;
bulletwhether any state or local policies or practices have interfered with decisions of the IEP team about the childís educational needs and the services that the school would provide to meet those needs; and
bulletwhether the school has provided the services listed in the IEP.

This guide is intended to help states and school districts write IEPs that comply with IDEA. Writing effective IEPs is a very important first step in improving educational results for children with disabilities.

Additional copies of this guide are available from:

ED Pubs
Editorial Publications Center
U.S. Department of Education
P.O. Box 1398
Jessup, MD 20794-1398
(877) 4-ED-PUBS
(877) 576-7734 TTY
(301) 470-1244 Fax

To obtain this publication in an alternate format (braille, large print, audio cassette, or disk), please contact Katie Mincey, Director of the Alternate Format Center, at (202) 260-9895, or via e-mail at