If you (a parent/guardian) disagree with a decision concerning your student’s IEP, there are several options available to resolve the dispute. The Special Education Resolution and Compliance Unit (“RACU”) of MCPS will be involved in overseeing all of these processes.
One option that parents sometimes find useful is to request that the IEP meeting be facilitated by a neutral, trained facilitator. The Special Education Resolution and Compliance Unit (RACU) of MCPS oversees this process, where an IEP meeting facilitator from the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County joins the IEP meetings to help the group come to a consensus. The facilitator should ensure that each person who attends the meeting, especially the parent, is able to participate fully and meaningfully, and that all concerns are addressed. Throughout the meeting, the facilitator remains neutral and focuses on the process while the team makes the decisions. This service is offered at no cost, to parents or MCPS. An independent facilitator may be requested by either you or the school, but both parties must agree to participate. For more information about this process, click here.
In an Administrative Review, a small committee from the MCPS Equity Assurance and Compliance Unit and/or the Department of Special Education Services whose members had no involvement with the disputed decision, review all the documents and, within 20 days, propose a resolution. A parent or guardian can request this review by filing out MCPS Form 336-43A. This procedure is overseen by RACU, and is meant to avoid the more formal procedures of Mediation or Due Process Hearing, and it is available only if you have not filed a request for mediation or a due process hearing. If you are not satisfied with the resolution proposed through the Administrative Review you can still pursue mediation and/or a due process hearing. In fact, you can initiate a request for mediation or due process before the administrative review process is completed. The administrative review process terminates once you request a mediation or due process hearing.
Mediation is a voluntary process that allows for disagreements between you and the school to be resolved with the help of a third party, often an administrative law judge. Mediation can be requested by you or by a representative of MCPS. Both sides must agree to participate in the mediation process in order for a mediation session to take place. The first step in requesting mediation is to contact MCPS’ Resolution and Compliance Unit (RACU) and request an application; you can also find the application . A good resource of information about this process is found at MCPS Mediation Flyer.
A due process hearing is a formal way to resolve a dispute between you and the school system about your child’s special educational program. If you feel that your child’s educational rights are being violated because he/she is not receiving a free appropriate public education (FAPE) or the proper special education services, you have the right to request a due process hearing. For example, you may request a due process hearing if you: disagree with the school’s decision regarding eligibility for special education and related services, think that your child’s IEP does not meet his or her special education needs, believe the school is not providing the services included in your child’s IEP, or disagree with the school placement decision for your child. An administrative law judge, appointed through the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings, runs the hearing and makes the decision. Most families get support from an attorney or advocate when filing a due process complaint; however, it is not required. You may complete all of the steps of the process without an attorney or advocate. You can initiate the proceeding by filing the Request for Mediation and Due Process Complaint form. You can find more detailed information about the due process hearings at these websites:
*Please note that in the State of Maryland, the burden of proof rests on the party bringing the due process complaint. That means that parents who file for due process have the burden of proving that the school district has violated their student’s rights.