What to do if the IEP is not meeting your child’s needs
You can ALWAYS request an IEP meeting. Do so in writing for documentation. Calling an IEP meeting to discuss a particular concern or issue coming up in the school environment can be a great first step in doing some problem-solving.
When you request the meeting, you can let the school know what specific matters you would like to address at the meeting - this can help them come prepared with some ideas for how to move forward. It is also a good idea to sit down before the meeting and organize your own thoughts. If there are specific suggestions that you have to remedy the situation, bring those to the table.
Advocacy / information resources
There are a few organizations that provide formal support for parents navigating the special education system. This support can be in the form of information to support you in your own advocacy, or sometimes in the form of an in-person advocate who will attend meetings with you and support you in working with the school.
- Disability Rights Wisconsin: DRW is the federally mandated “Protection and Advocacy” organization for the state of Wisconsin. They have an advocacy team that can be contacted about difficulties with special education. Their team is small, so they are not always able to provide direct advocacy at an IEP meeting, but an advocate can talk through the situation with you and either provide some information and assistance, or may be able to attend a meeting with you depending on the situation.
- Wisconsin Family Ties Parent Peer Specialist program
- Wisconsin FACETS
- CESA 2 WSPEI Family Engagement Coordinators
- Wisconsin DPI Special Education Team: This is a team of people employed by the Department of Public Instruction who can interpret policy and answer questions about whether procedures are being followed appropriately. This team is not able to provide any direct intervention on your part, but can help you support your own assertions by sharing information about special education policy
Wisconsin Special Education Mediation System
A process in which a trained professional facilitates the IEP meeting in order to manage conflict, support problem-solving, and keep the discussion focused on the student. The professional who facilitates the IEP does not hold any authority over the decisions made during the IEP meeting; their role is simply to try and keep the discussion effective, and make sure that everyone’s voice is being heard. If you have an advocate or support person, it is a great idea for them to attend a facilitated IEP with you.
A legal process to resolve conflict, in which a trained professional facilitates discussion of the issues causing conflict and supports the team members in trying to determine a compromise. The mediator does not have any authority to make decisions about the IEP, but they can work with the team to create a mediated agreement that, when signed by all parties, is a legally binding document.
As indicated on this website, state law requires that the participants in mediation must be agreed on beforehand by all parties, so if you plan to bring any support people or advocates with you, it is important to make this known ahead of time.
IDEA State Complaint
You have a right as a parent / caregiver to file a complaint to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). You are granted this right through IDEA, and DPI is the state agency that is given the power to review these complaints and issue a decision. You can find additional information about DPI complaints, the form to complete, and a link to past decisions issued in response to DPI complaints (to give you an idea of what potential outcomes are) here: https://dpi.wi.gov/sped/dispute-resolution/complain
Due Process Hearing
If the other avenues available to you do not yield the results you and your child need, you have the right to request a due process hearing.
A due process hearing is a legal proceeding where you and the school district will present the issues in front of a hearing officer who will issue a legally binding decision regarding the conflict. There is no requirement that you have an attorney to take your concerns to a due process hearing, but you should be aware that the school district will be represented by an attorney, so initiating a hearing can be a big decision. The district is required to cover the cost of the hearing, however.
In order to request a due process hearing, complete and submit this form, which also provides additional information about the process. You should note that, after a hearing has been requested, the school district is required to hold a resolution meeting with you (unless you sign paperwork waiving this meeting) in which another attempt should be made to come to an agreement that is acceptable to both you and the school district. The district is not allowed to bring an attorney to this meeting unless you are also represented by an attorney.