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Special Education

Disputes and Complaints

What is the difference between a dispute vs a compliance complaint?

Dispute: when the parent disagrees with what services/placement should be offered in the child's IEP. The services/placement the parent wants is NOT in the current IEP.

Compliance Complaint: when the district fails to implement the services/placement in the signed IEP. The services/placement in question is ALREADY in the current IEP, but the district is not implementing the plan.

What are your options if you have a dispute?

The formal way to resolve a special education dispute is through filing for due process and let an administrative law judge decide the case. Hiring a lawyer is highly recommended to assist you in a due process hearing.


If you do not wish to involve a lawyer, you can also file for mediation only. A trained mediator will assist you in resolving the dispute with the school district.


Click here for COVID 19 updated information on Special Education laws and related forms to learn more mediation and due process.

How to file a Compliance Complaint

File a complaint with the California Department of Education: CDE investigates allegations of noncompliance with special education laws, federal or state. CDE ensures public agencies meet the educational needs of students with disabilities.


If you have questions, you can call the Compliant Support Unit at 1-800-926-0648 or email For details visit the CDE website. 

CDE complaints cannot be anonymous. In general investigations are completed within 60 days.

File a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights: The Office for Civil Rights enforces several Federal civil rights laws (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Education.


If your district discriminates against your child, including not implementing the IEP, click here for the electronic complaint form.

OCR complaints can be anonymous depending on the circumstances. There is no time limit within which an investigation must be completed.

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