If unable to resolve disagreement at the local level, more formal options to resolve disagreement may include the complaint process. There are different types of complaints which depend on the issues and concerns.
Uniform Complaint Procedures Complaint with the School District
A Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP) complaint is filed with the District. A UCP complaint is a written and signed statement alleging a violation of federal or state laws or regulations. A UCP complaint may include an allegation of unlawful discrimination, harassment, intimidation, or bullying. Often the UCP information is found on the LEA website or through contacting the LEA to access the forms. The California Department of Education has more information on its Uniform Complaint Procedures webpage.
Due Process Complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings
The parent or the school district can request a due process hearing related to a disagreement about the child’s IEP, eligibility, placement, program needs, or related services. There are different types of due process complaints including: mediation only, due process hearing only, due process and mediation, or expedited due process hearing. For more information about filing a due process complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), visit their website.
Special Education Complaint with the California Department of Education
A written signed complaint is a formal request to the CDE to investigate allegations in which the complainant believes the public agency (e.g. student’s school district) has violated special education law or regulation, federal or state. Anyone, including parents, students, teachers, and agency representatives may file complaints. Learn more about the special education state complaint process.
CDE SED Comparison of Processes Available for Resolving Disagreements Related to Special Education
|Questions for Each Process||CDE Complaint||Mediation of CDE Complaint||OAH Due Process||OAH Mediation Only|
|Who can initiate the process?||Any individual or organization||CDE is required to offer mediation to the parent or the LEA but both must agree, and participation is voluntary||Parent or LEA||Parent or LEA — Participation is voluntary|
|What is the time limit for filing?||One year from the date of the alleged violation||None specified||The parent or LEA must request a due process hearing through the filing of a due process complaint which must allege a violation that occurred not more than two (2) years before the date the parent or the LEA knew or should have known about the alleged action that forms the basis of the due process complaint.||None specified|
|What issues can be resolved?||Alleged violations of federal and state special education laws||Any matter identified in a CDE complaint||Any matter relating to the identification, evaluation or educational placement or provision of a free appropriate public education||Any matter related to special education law|
|What is the timeline for resolving the issues?||60 days from receipt of the complaint unless an extension is agreed to by the parties or if exceptional circumstances exist with respect to a particular complaint IDEA does not contain a specific timeframe in which mediation must occur.||Because mediation is voluntary, the parties have the flexibility to identify a mutually agreeable time to meet.||45 days from the end of the resolution period unless specific extensions to the timelines are granted. Once an LEA is in receipt of the parent's due process complaint, the LEA must convene a resolution meeting within 15 days, unless the parties agree in writing to waive the meeting or agree to use mediation. The resolution period is 30 days from receipt of the parent's due process complaint unless the parties agree otherwise or the parent or LEA fails to participate in the resolution meeting or the LEA fails to convene the resolution meeting within 15 days of receipt of the parent's due process complaint.||In a timely manner|
|Who resolves the issues?||CDE||Parent and LEA with the help of a professional mediator arranged through CDE||OAH Hearing Officer||Parent and LEA with the help of a professional mediator through OAH|
Office for Civil Rights Discrimination Complaint
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigates violations of schools that receive federal financial assistance. Anyone may file a complaint. The person or organization filing the complaint need not be a victim of the alleged discrimination but may complain on behalf of another person or group. Learn more about filing a complaint with the OCR.
There is also a video “How to File a Complaint with the OCR” to help parents, families, students, and stakeholders better understand how they can file an OCR complaint.