Special Education and Support Services
Complaint Investigation Process
Early Resolution • Correspondence That Will Not Be Investigated • Correspondence That Will Be Investigated • Request for State Complaint Investigation • Issues Impacting Complaint Investigations • Complaint Procedures/Resolutions • Due Process
Early resolution is an informal means for districts and parents to resolve complaints at the local level. It is not uncommon for disagreements to occur between parents and school districts regarding a child's special education services. Those disagreements can often be resolved at the local level with open communication between the parties. The process of resolving disagreements at the local level can be a quick alternative to using a state-sponsored dispute resolution system, and can have the added benefit of improving communication between both parties in the future.
Parents seeking guidance on how to resolve disputes at the local level may contact the Special Education Division of the Illinois State Board of Education at 217/782-5589, or through the agency's toll-free parent line at 866/262-6663 and ask to speak to a consultant. Additional information on resolving disputes at the local level can be found by visiting the website of the Consortium for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE) at http://www.directionservice.org/cadre/.
If an individual believes that a school district has not complied with the law or that a child's educational rights has been violated, the individual should try to resolve the issues with the local school district, through the following steps:
- Communicating directly with the school staff, principal, superintendent, or director of the special education cooperative.
- Requesting an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting to discuss the issues with the IEP team.
- Utilizing the state-sponsored mediation system to resolve the areas of concern. Additional information about mediation may be found at: http://www.isbe.net/spec-ed/html/mediation.htm.
If any such efforts to resolve issues at the district level are not successful and an individual believes that a more formalized action is necessary, he/she may submit a signed, written complaint to the Illinois State Board of Education.
- Allegations that the person refuses to put in writing or sign, despite offers of assistance in preparing the complaint.
- Inquiries that seek advice and clarification regarding parental rights but which make it clear that no official action is to be taken.
- Anonymous correspondence.
- Courtesy copies of correspondence directed to another entity.
- Allegations that are not violations of the special education rules and regulations (i.e. personnel issues, Section 504 issues, harassment, etc.)
- Certain issues that may be more appropriately addressed via the due process system. Additional information about due process may be found at: http://www.isbe.net/spec-ed/html/due_process.htm
- A signed, written letter alleging that the school district violated one or more of the special education laws or rules/regulations.
- An allegation of a violation that occurred not more than one year prior to the date the complaint is received by the Illinois State Board of Education.
Per federal regulations at 34 CFR 300.509, this form has been developed to assist parents and other parties in filing a State complaint. The use of this form is recommended, but not required. The completed form should be sent to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) as well as the child’s local school district or to the public agency that is serving the child.
*If the form is not used to submit a State complaint, a letter with the following information must be submitted: (a) signature and contact information for the person filing the complaint; (b) name and address of residence of the child; (c) the child’s birth date, gender and ethnicity; (d) district/school information; (e) a statement detailing the alleged violation(s) and the facts on which the statement is based (Note – The alleged violation(s) must have occurred within one calendar year prior to the date the complaint is received.); (f) a proposed resolution to the identified issue(s). If able, provide necessary documentation such as copies of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). The complaint letter must be forwarded to the local school district or the public agency serving the child, and should also be sent to:
The Illinois State Board of Education
Special Education Services Division
100 North First Street
Springfield, Illinois 62777-0001
- Complaints regarding a specific child lodged by an individual other than the parent/guardian must be accompanied by a letter of permission from the parent/guardian in order for ISBE to share information with the complainant regarding the results of the investigation. Likewise, if an individual files a complaint on behalf of a student who is eighteen (18) years of age or older, it must be accompanied by a letter of permission from the student in order for ISBE to share information with the complainant regarding the results of the investigation.
- A complaint which is substantially modified or amended by the complainant (i.e., new allegations) subsequent to official written notification of the complaint may be deemed a new complaint for the purpose of computing the applicable timeline.
- Within 60 days after a valid complaint is filed, the State Board of Education will carry out an independent investigation to gather information, and an on-site visit will be conducted, if necessary. An extension of time to complete the investigation shall be allowed if exceptional circumstances exist, or if the parent and school district agree to extend the timeline to engage in mediation or other alternate means of dispute resolution.
- The individual filing the complaint has the opportunity to submit additional information about the allegations of the complaint, either orally or in writing.
- The public agency has an opportunity to respond to the complaint, including a proposal to resolve the complaint and an opportunity for the parent who has filed a complaint and the public agency to voluntarily engage in mediation.
- The State Board of Education will review all relevant information and make an independent determination whether the public agency is violating a requirement of federal or state special education regulations.
- The State Board of Education will issue a written decision to the individual filing the complaint that addresses each allegation and contains (a) findings of fact and conclusions; (b) the reasons for the State Board of Education’s decision; and (c) orders for any actions necessary to bring the public agency into compliance with federal or state requirements. If the local school district or the special education cooperative does not verify compliance with the Illinois State Board of Education, additional enforcement proceedings may occur.
- Use of the complaint process does not preclude an eligible party such as a parent, school district, or a student from requesting a special education due process hearing.
- All action relative to the complaint will be set aside if a hearing has been initiated and the issues in the complaint are addressed in the hearing request. Potential violations alleged in the complaint that are not addressed in the due process hearing will be handled through the complaint process.
- If an issue raised in a complaint has already been decided in a due process hearing, the decision of the due process hearing officer is binding.