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Dispute Resolution Options

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Dispute Resolution Options

When a dispute arises between two parties, typically between parents and school districts, there are several options available to try to resolve the issues. In addition to the information outlined below you can Compare Resolution Options at the Special Education Mediation Services (SEMS) website.

Collaborative Problem Solving Resources

When parents and schools work together on an issue, both parties are more likely to be satisfied with the solution. Direct, early, and meaningful communication between parties helps create a positive working relationship. The resources below provide information about the various dispute resolution options and links to additional resources.

Facilitated Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meetings and Mediation

Special Education Mediation Services (SEMS)

SEMS provides free facilitation for IEP meetings and special education mediation in Michigan.

IEP Facilitation: IEP facilitators support the full participation of all parties at IEP team meetings. For issues of disagreement, mediators assist with the discussion in a safe and neutral environment.

Mediation: At mediation, the parties explore options to meet student needs. Any decision reached must be agreed on by the two parties.

SEMS has a toll-free number (1-833-KIDS1ST) for requesting a facilitated IEP meeting and mediation. An intake coordinator can explain the process and discuss the different options available.

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SEMS Website
Special Education Mediation Services (SEMS) Video

State Complaints

Anyone, including organizations, may file a state complaint if they believe a public agency has violated the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE), or the Michigan Revised School Code as it pertains to special education programs and services, or failed to implement an IEP, an administrative law judge (ALJ) decision, an ISD plan, or the state application for federal funds under the IDEA.

The state complaint process must be completed within 60 calendar days and includes the following:

  1. The complainant (the person or organization filing a state complaint) submits the allegation in writing to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) Office of Special Education (OSE). The state complaint must be signed.
  2. The OSE notifies the involved parties of the state complaint and then conducts an investigation.
  3. The MDE issues a final report with a finding of compliance or noncompliance. In the event of noncompliance, the MDE issues the public agency a corrective action and requires proof of compliance.

Request a State Complaint Investigation

Complainants do not have to use the model form but must submit a written request that includes the same information required by the model form.

Due Process Complaints

A due process complaint may be filed by a parent or public agency. The complaint must allege the other party made an improper decision for a student with a disability regarding:

  • Identification
  • Evaluation
  • Educational placement
  • Provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE)

The due process complaint process includes the following:

  1. The complainant (the person or organization filing a due process complaint) submits the complaint in writing to the MDE OSE and the respondent (the party that is the subject of the complaint).
  2. The OSE forwards the due process complaint to the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules (MOAHR) and a due process hearing date is set.
  3. The complainant and respondent enter a meeting called a resolution session to attempt to resolve the dispute before the hearing. The parties may agree in writing to waive the meeting or go to mediation.
  4. The due process hearing is held in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). Lawyers may represent each party. The ALJ issues a decision.
  5. If the ALJ rules that the respondent is in violation of the IDEA, the ALJ issues the respondent a corrective action. The respondent must provide proof of compliance to the OSE.

If either party disagrees with the final decision, they may pursue a lawsuit in state or federal court.

The Resolution Meeting

A resolution meeting is held when a parent files a due process complaint requesting a hearing against a school district. The district is required to contact the parent to schedule a resolution meeting.

Due Process Hearing Decisions

Due process hearing decisions in Michigan are available through an online database.