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Early Resolution

Early resolution is an informal means for districts and parents to resolve issues 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.​​

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 following systems to resolve the areas of concern:

 State-Sponsored IEP Facilitation

IEP facilitation is a process that helps foster effective communication between parents and districts as they develop a mutually acceptable Individualized Education Program (IEP). This process may be used as a preventative measure in which a trained facilitator promotes whole team participation, acknowledging and addressing differing opinions in a respectful and neutral manner. IEP facilitation can improve relationships between school districts and parents in order to effectively plan services to meet the needs of the student.

 State-Sponsored Mediation

​​Illinois' mediation service is designed as a means of resolving disagreements regarding special education services, placement and related services to children enrolled in Illinois public schools.

 Complaint Investigation Process


A complaint investigation is a formal process where a person submits a signed, written complaint alleging that the school district has violated one or more of the special education rules and regulations.​

 Due Process

Due process is a formal hearing that occurs if a parent (or occasionally a district) files a due process “complaint” requesting a due process hearing. The hearing may involve attorneys and advocates for each side and will result in a legally binding, written decision that can be appealed to a court of law.​

Special Education Dispute Resolution Comparison​

  • Purpose
    • State-Sponsored IEP Facilitation: Used to promote effective communication and prevent conflicts as a parent and school district develop a mutually acceptable IEP.
    • State-Sponsored Mediation: Available anytime there is a disagreement between parents and educators about special education and/or related services, even if a written state complaint or due process has been filed.
    • Written State Complaint: Available when there is a concern that a public agency has not followed special education rules and regulations. May be filed on behalf of an individual student or a group of children.
    • Due Process Hearing: Used to resolve disagreements relating to the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or provision of FAPE to a child.
  • Issues Addressed
    • State-Sponsored IEP Facilitation: Any issues related to IEP development
    • State-Sponsored Mediation: Any issues related to special education
    • Written State Complaint: Alleged violations of state/federal special education requirements
    • Due Process Hearing: Any issue related to identification, evaluation, placement, or the provision of FAPE
  • Request
    • State-Sponsored IEP Facilitation: A parent or school district may request facilitation by contacting ISBE.
    • State-Sponsored Mediation: A parent or school district may request mediation by contacting ISBE.
    • Written State Complaint: Any person or organization may submit a written complaint to ISBE.
    • Due Process Hearing: A parent may file a due process request with the district superintendent.

      A district may file a due process request under limited circumstances (i.e., to challenge an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) request, to seek temporary removal of a student due to dangerous behavior).
  • Request Form
  • Process
    • State-Sponsored IEP Facilitation: ISBE provides a trained facilitator at no cost to the parties to help foster effective communication between parents and districts as they develop a mutually acceptable IEP.
    • State-Sponsored Mediation: ISBE provides a trained mediator at no cost to the parties as a means of resolving disagreements regarding special education matters.
    • Written State Complaint: Information and documentation related to the allegation(s) are reviewed by an ISBE complaint investigator.
    • Due Process Hearing: An impartial hearing officer hears formal arguments, witness testimony, and documentary evidence similar to a court proceeding.
  • Format of Process
    • State-Sponsored IEP Facilitation: Parties meet within context of formal IEP meeting.
    • State-Sponsored Mediation: Parties convene for a formal discussion.
    • Written State Complaint: Parties do not meet, complaint investigator requests information from the district and independently reviews documentation.
    • Due Process Hearing: Parties meet in an administrative hearing.
  • Potential Outcome
    • State-Sponsored IEP Facilitation: A mutually acceptable IEP is developed.
    • State-Sponsored Mediation: A legally-binding mediation agreement enforceable in court is developed.
    • Written State Complaint: A report with findings of facts, conclusions, and corrective actions (if noncompliance is identified) is issued.
    • Due Process Hearing: A decision that orders remedial action, as determined by the hearing officer.
  • Timeline to Complete Process
    • State-Sponsored IEP Facilitation: No specific timeline
    • State-Sponsored Mediation: Must be scheduled in a timely manner
    • Written State Complaint: 60 Calendar Days
    • Due Process Hearing: 75 Calendar Days*
  • Legal Representation
    • State-Sponsored IEP Facilitation: Attorneys are neither required nor prohibited.
    • State-Sponsored Mediation: Participants may include attorneys, advocates, interpreters, and other relevant parties who have knowledge of the student and/or of the matter being mediated.
    • Written State Complaint: Attorneys are neither required nor prohibited.
    • Due Process Hearing: Although not required, parties are often represented by attorneys.
  • District Participation
    • State-Sponsored IEP Facilitation: Voluntary
    • State-Sponsored Mediation: Voluntary
    • Written State Complaint: Required
    • Due Process Hearing: Required
  • Statute of Limitations
    • State-Sponsored IEP Facilitation: Not applicable
    • State-Sponsored Mediation: None
    • Written State Complaint: One Year
    • Due Process Hearing: Two Years
  • Allowable Extensions
    • State-Sponsored IEP Facilitation: Meeting can be rescheduled with agreement of parties.
    • State-Sponsored Mediation: Meeting can be rescheduled with agreement of parties.
    • Written State Complaint: Only when exceptional circumstances require an extension.
    • Due Process Hearing: At the request of either party
  • Website

*Regular hearing request with full resolution session timeline.

Adapted from Quick Guide to Special Education Dispute Resolution Processes for ParentsPDF Document.​​​

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