Special Education Issues: Things parents and caregivers can do

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project

Short explanation of options for parents, families and students having problems with special education. #1300EN

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Yes, you should use this if you live in Washington State, having problems with special education, and are wondering what you can do to help make things better.

You should get advice before choosing or trying any of these options. You can get advice and help from local parent groups or the state's Education Ombudsman.  See contact info below for where you can get legal help.

*The Education Ombudsman works with families, communities, and schools to solve k- 12 education problems. Visit https://oeo.wa.gov/en to find out more.

We listed your options below in order of simple to hard. You can

  • Ask for an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). You can do this if you're not getting special education services yet, or if you are but you need something different. Talk with your school district to find out how. This process is a discussion with the school district about supports your student needs.

*If you're worried about an IEP meeting or had a hard time with one in the past, you can ask for an IEP facilitator.  A facilitator can help guide the meeting process and make sure everyone is heard. The facilitator won't argue for any one side. Read http://somtg.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/IEP-Trifold-final.pdf to find out more.

 

  • Mediate with the school. This means trying to reach a compromise with help from a neutral professional. (The mediator doesn't argue for any one side.) The school must agree to mediate with you. You can't make them do it. You can mediate many different problems. You can get to a solution quickly if everyone agrees.

*If you want to try mediation, call Sound Options Group at 800-692-2540 or 206-842-2298 in Seattle. Washington State relay service numbers: 800-833-6388 (TDD) or 800-833-6384 (voice).

 

  • File a Community Complaint with the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). You can do this if you think a school or district broke a special education rule or law. This process can take several months. You can't do this and go through the due process complaint process (see below) at the same time.

*To file a Community Complaint, write to Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Attention: Special Education, P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200, or Fax: 360-586-0247.

 

  • File a federal civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education. You can do this if you believe the school or district has violated Section 504 or the Americans with Disabilities Act. These federal laws protect students with disabilities. There's no guarantee that the federal government will take on your case.

*You can file this complaint online at http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html. Or write to Seattle Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, 915 Second Avenue Room 3310, Seattle, WA 98174-1099.

 

  • File a federal civil rights complaint with the Department of Justice. You can do this if you believe the school or district has discriminated against you or broken any federal civil rights law. Talk to a lawyer to decide if it makes sense for you to do this. There's no guarantee that the federal government will take on your case. You can't do this and go through the due process complaint process (see below) at the same time.

*You can file this complaint online at https://civilrights.justice.gov/ or https://civilrights.justice.gov/report/. Or you can call (202) 514-3847, 1-(855)-1247 (toll free), TTY: (202) 514-0716. Or write to U.S. Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.W., Washington D.C. 20530-0001.

 

  • Ask for a due process hearing. You can do this if you believe the school or district has violated your student's 504 plan or broken the federal IDEA law.  Each law protects the right of a student with disabilities to a free and appropriate education (FAPE). This process can be complicated. You might have to do this before you can file a lawsuit.

*You make your due process request with the school district Superintendent. Send a copy to Administrative Resource Services at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.

 

  • File a lawsuit in state or federal court. You shouldn't try to do this on your own. Talk to a lawyer. Filing a court case can solve serious problems you have with the school or district, but it's hard. It can take a long time. You might first have to go through the due process complaint process.

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

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Last Review and Update: Mar 17, 2024
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