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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.

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.

Special Education Dispute Resolution Options (PDF)
This document includes details about various dispute resolution options and provides additional resources.

Special Education Mediation Services (SEMS)
SEMS provides free meeting facilitation and mediation services.

Michigan Alliance for Families: Communication
The Michigan Alliance for Families provides resources to help you effectively communicate your child's needs.

Facilitated Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meetings and Mediation

A neutral third party can help parents and schools discuss issues at special education meetings.

Special Education Mediation Services (SEMS)

Link to Special Education Mediation Services

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

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Phone: 1-833-KIDS1ST (1-833-543-7178)

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.

Compensatory Education

Compensatory Education (PDF)
The purpose of compensatory education is to remedy a public agency's failure to provide a child with a disability with "appropriate services" during the time the child is (or was) entitled to a free appropriate public education when it is determined appropriate services were denied.

Request a State Complaint Investigation

State Complaint Model Form (PDF)
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.

State Complaint Model Form - Spanish (PDF)

State Complaint Process

Special Education State Complaints: Procedures and Model Forms (PDF)
This document provides information on filing a state complaint, the state complaint investigation process, and resources available to families.

Special Education State Complaints: Procedures and Model Forms - Spanish (PDF)

Release of Information Model Form (PDF)

Corrective Action Process for Noncompliance With the IDEA and MARSE (PDF)
The OSE may issue a corrective action plan if the OSE determines a district is noncompliant.

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.

Due Process Complaints (PDF)
Includes a flow chart outlining the steps involved when a due process complaint is filed by a parent.

Due Process Complaint Filed by District (PDF)
Includes a flow chart outlining the steps involved when a due process complaint if filed by a district.

The Resolution Meeting

The Resolution Meeting (PDF)
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.

Request a Due Process Hearing

Model Due Process Complaint/Request for Hearing Form (PDF)
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.

Special Education Due Process Complaint Procedures (PDF)
This document includes the Michigan Department of Education procedures regarding special education administrative due process hearings.

Due Process Hearing Decisions

Special Education Due Process Hearing Decisions
Due process hearing decisions in Michigan are available through an online database.