Procedural Safeguards / Parent Rights

This web site briefly describes parental rights in special education. Please refer to the definition of terms to assist in understanding any unfamiliar vocabulary. For updated and in-depth information, please see the "Procedural Safeguards Available to Parents of Children with Disabilities," at the Shiawassee Regional Education Service District. The information is also available on the Michigan Department of Education’s website:

MDE Procedural Safeguards Notice

As a parent, you have the right to:

  • Be notified before an IEPT meeting is convened and have the purpose of the meeting explained to you.
  • Have the IEPT meeting scheduled at a mutually convenient time and place.
  • Invite a person(s) to accompany you to the meeting. Have your child attend the meeting, if this is appropriate.
  • Participate in the development of your child’s individualized education program (IEP).
  • Receive a copy of the IEP.
  • Request an Individual Educational Planning Team (IEPT) meeting anytime a change in the plan is needed.
  • Understand the proceedings at the IEPT, including the use of an interpreter if necessary.

As a parent, you have the right to:

  • Receive, upon request, a list of the types and locations of educational records kept on your child.
  • Inspect and review any of your child’s records.
  • Receive copies of the records for a minimal cost for duplication.
  • Have someone at your child’s school explain or interpret any item in your child’s records that you do not understand.
  • Have a person of your choosing inspect and review the records.
  • Ask for an amendment of any record on the grounds that it is inaccurate, misleading, or violates privacy rights.
  • Request a Hearing on the issue if the district refuses to make an amendment.
  • Receive notice when the personally identifiable information collected, maintained, or used is no longer needed to provide educational services to your child. The information must be destroyed at your request. However, a permanent record or a student’s name, address, and phone number, his or her grades, attendance record, classes attended, grade level completed, and year completed shall be maintained without time limitation.
  • Restrict access to your child’s records by withholding consent to disclose records.
  • Be told to whom information has been disclosed.
  • Be informed that information in the child’s file is no longer needed to provide educational services and the agency wishes to destroy the information.
  • Request that the educational information about your child be destroyed.

As a parent, you have the right to:

  • Assure that children with disabilities under the age of 18 have a parent or legal guardian to represent them and to involve the courts if the whereabouts of the parent / legal guardian cannot be located to ensure appropriate representation.
  • Provide input into the Shiawassee Regional Educational Service District Plan.
  • Immediate placement of a child with a disability when moving to a new school district.
  • Place a child in a private school in spite of the local school district’s ability to provide a free appropriate public education. However, parents must bear the cost.

As a parent, you have the right to:

  • Request an impartial due process hearing to question the district’s identification, evaluation, or placement of your child or the provision of a free appropriate public education.
  • Have the hearing conducted by the district responsible for your child’s education, at a time and place reasonably convenient for you, including the use of an interpreter, if necessary.
  • Be told of any free or low-cost legal and other relevant services available.
  • Have access to your child’s records prior to a hearing.
  • Have the hearing chaired by a mutually agreeable hearing officer not employed by the district involved in the education of your child or otherwise having any personal or professional interest in the hearing.
  • See a statement of the qualifications of the hearing officer.
  • Be accompanied to the hearing and advised by counsel and individuals with speaking knowledge or training regarding the problems of children with disabilities.
  • Have your child present, if you desire.
  • Have the hearing either open or closed to the public.
  • Present evidence and confront, cross-examine, and compel the attendance of witnesses who are employees of the local school or RESD who are knowledgeable about your child.
  • Prohibit the introduction of any evidence at the hearing that has not been disclosed to you at least five days before the hearing.
  • Obtain a verbatim record of the hearing.
  • Obtain written findings of fact and a written decision.
  • Any party (you or the school district) who does not agree with the findings and decision in the due process hearing (including a hearing relating to disciplinary procedures) has the right to bring a civil action with respect to the matter that was the subject of the due process hearing. The action may be brought in a state court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States without regard to the amount in dispute. The party shall have 90 calendar days from the date of the decision to file a civil action.
  • A hearing and appeals which allow oral arguments, to be set at a time reasonably convenient to the parent.
  • Appeal a decision from the state educational agency in court at your expense.
  • Have your child remain in his or her present educational placement while the hearing or state appeal is proceeding, unless you and the district agree otherwise.

As a parent, you have the right to:

  • Request mediation to resolve differences prior to a hearing.
  • Have meetings scheduled in a timely manner and held at a place that is convenient for you.
  • Sign a mutual agreement (with the school district) which indicates that all discussions are confidential and may not be used as evidence in any subsequent due process hearing or civil proceeding.
  • Have the written and signed mediation agreement enforceable in any State court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States.

As a parent, you have the right to:

  • File a State complaint if you believe that a school district is violating, misinterpreting, or misapplying a law, administrative rule, the SRESD plan, IEP, or state application for federal funds under the IDEA. If you suspect a violation, you should contact your SRESD director of special education or designee. This person will informally try to resolve the issue and tell you of your right to file a formal complaint. This person will contact you and also send you a copy of the rules dealing with complaints.
  • If you file a formal complaint, MDE and the SRESD must investigate your complaint and give you a copy of the findings. If after reviewing their findings you are not satisfied, you may appeal this decision by filing a due process complaint with the MDE, which initiates a due process hearing. In some cases, the party must have attempted to resolve the matter in a special education due process hearing before filing an action in a court. MDE recommends that parents consult with an attorney when considering what options are available when there is disagreement with the MDE final report/amended final report.

More information on this process is available by contacting your local school district or SRESD’s Director of Special Education.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are my options if there are concerns about special education services?

There are a number of ways to address concerns, including, but not limited to:

  1. Working with the public agency special education administrator.
  2.  Holding an IEP team meeting.
  3. Holding a facilitated IEP team meeting.
  4. Using of the ISD for assistance.
  5. Using of informal dispute resolution processes
  6. Filing a state complaint
  7. Filing a due process complaint/requesting a hearing

What are examples of informal dispute resolution processes for resolving special education concerns? 

Informal dispute resolution refers to a number of collaborative methods for resolving special education concerns. These methods enable those with concerns to seek solutions through direct discussion. Discussion may be aided by neutral individuals who facilitate communication and problem-solving while allowing the parties to make their own decisions.

Informal dispute resolution processes may be used in lieu of filing a state complaint.

They also can be used after filing a state complaint as outlined later in this document. Regardless of whether an informal process is used, the state complaint process is always available.

Examples of informal dispute resolution include, but are not limited to:

  • Local Resolution—Parties involved may resolve issues directly with each other. They do not have to agree on what happened or why, but may agree on steps to address the concern. This agreement may be documented in writing and signed by the participants. (See C below)
  • IEP Team Meeting—Parents or the public agency may request a meeting at any time to address issues of concern.
  • Facilitated IEP Team Meeting—A neutral facilitator may be requested to support the IEP team process and can help ensure that all viewpoints and ideas are heard.
  • Mediation—Concerns may be addressed through a voluntary process in which a neutral mediator assists the parent and district in discussing the issues, generating options, and negotiating a resolution. The mediator has no authority to impose an outcome. Successful mediation results in a written agreement signed by the parties, and this agreement is enforceable in court. (See D below)
  • Public Agency Proposed Corrective Action. (See E below)

After a state complaint has been filed it may also be resolved without a formal investigation by a public agency proposed corrective action.

What is Local Resolution?

Local resolution is an opportunity for the complainant and the public agency to directly resolve the issues prompting the complaint. The complainant and public agency staff do not have to agree on what happened or why, but still may agree on steps to address the concerns. The MDE/ISD staff may help the public agency and the complainant reach this agreement. The agreement must be documented in writing and signed by the parties. The agreement could be written in a letter format or as a new IEP or an IEP addendum.

  • In order to give the parties an opportunity for local resolution, the MDE may allow 10 calendar days before proceeding with the state complaint investigation. A state complaint investigation may proceed simultaneously with the resolution process.
  • If the parties reach an agreement that resolves the complaint, the public agency or complainant will notify the MDE in writing that an agreement has been reached. The MDE will contact all parties to verify that an agreement has been reached and close the complaint.
  • If only some of the allegations in the complaint are resolved, the MDE/ISD may investigate the remaining issues, depending on the agreement.
  • If the parties do not choose to participate in local resolution, or if the parties do not agree on a solution in 10 calendar days, the MDE/ISD will proceed with the complaint investigation.
  • Local resolution is not a required step before initiating mediation.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary process. A trained, impartial mediator assists the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution of the concerns or the state complaint. Mediation includes all contacts between the mediator and the parties until either the parties agree to a resolution or the mediation process ends. Discussions during mediation are confidential. The MDE encourages the parties to consider mediation.

  • Cost of mediation: If the parties agree to use mediation, the MDE will provide the mediator at no cost to the parties if they choose to use the Michigan Special Education Mediation Program (MSEMP). The parties may agree to use an outside mediator at public agency expense.
  • Effect on the 60 calendar-day timeline: If a state complaint has been filed, the 60 calendar-day timeline is suspended during mediation. The timeline resumes upon the MDE receiving notification of an agreement, partial agreement, or no agreement.
  • Procedures used in mediation: The mediation process must meet the requirements defined by §300.506 of the IDEA Regulations, which states:
    • (a) General. Each public agency must ensure that procedures are established and implemented to allow parties to disputes involving any matter under this part, including matters arising prior to the filing of a due process complaint, to resolve disputes through a mediation process.
    • (b)The procedures must meet the following requirements:(1) The procedures must ensure that the mediation process—
      • (i) Is voluntary on the part of the parties;
      • (ii) Is not used to deny or delay a parent’s right to a hearing on the parent’s due process complaint, or to deny any other rights afforded under Part B of the Act; and
      • (iii) Is conducted by a qualified and impartial mediator who is trained in effective mediation techniques

What is Public Agency Proposed Corrective Action?

When a state complaint has been filed, the public agency may agree that a violation has occurred as alleged by the complainant, and propose a resolution, including a corrective action. In this case, the state complaint investigation would not be conducted.

  • The pubic agency submits a written proposal of corrective action to the MDE/ISD and the complainant which addresses the complainant’s proposed resolution.
  • The public agency must make available to the complainant, upon the complainant’s request, any documentation referred to in the public agency’s response:
    • If the complainant is the parent, the parent has access to the student’s educational records.
    • If the complainant is not the parent, confidential and easily identifiable information about all students must be removed.
  • The MDE/ISD may accept the public agency’s proposal for corrective action or determine corrective action based upon both the complainant’s and the public agency’s recommendations.
  • If the MDE rejects the proposed corrective action, the MDE/ISD will proceed with the complaint investigation.

How can an informal dispute resolution be requested?

For information about dispute resolution, contact:

  • The local school district’s special education administrator.
  • The ISD special education department.
  • The Michigan Special Education Mediation Program (MSEMP) - Phone: (800) 8RESOLVE
  • The MDE, OSE-EIS: phone (517) 373-0923
  • The MDE or ISD investigator may contact the public agency and the complainant to encourage use of dispute resolution options.

What is a special education state complaint?

A special education state complaint is a formal accusation that initiates an investigation by the MDE and ISD. It is a written and signed allegation that a school district, the MDE, or other public education agency has violated:

  • The IDEA and its implementing regulations.
  • The Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE).
  • The ISD Plan for the Delivery of Special Education Programs and Services.
  • An IEP.
  • The implementation of an administrative law judge (ALJ) decision.
  • Michigan’s application for federal funds under the IDEA. 

Michigan Administrative Rule 340.1701a(c) defines a state complaint; it states:

(c) “Complaint” means a written and signed allegation that includes the facts on which the allegation is based, by an individual or an organization, that there is a violation of any of the following:

  • (i) Any current provision of these rules.
  • (ii) 1976 PA 451, MCL 380.1 et seq., as it pertains to special education programs and services.
  • (iii) The individuals with disabilities education act of 2004, 20 U.S.C., chapter 33, §1400 et seq., and the regulations implementing the act, 34 C.F.R. part 300 and 34 C.F.R. part 303.
  • (iv) An intermediate school district plan.
  • (v) An individualized education program team report, hearing officer decision, administrative law judge decision, or court decision regarding special education programs or services.
  • (vi) The state application for federal funds under the individuals with disabilities education act.

Who may file a state complaint?

Any person or organization may file a state complaint. The person or organization filing the complaint is called the “complainant.” The complainant does not have to live in Michigan. 

When must a state complaint be filed?

The state complaint must be received by the MDE and the public agency within one year of the alleged violation.

What must be included in a state complaint?

A state complaint must meet the criteria set forth in Rule 340.1701a(c) of the MARSE and §300.153(b)(c)(d) of the IDEA. §300.153(b)(c)(d) states:

  • (b) The complaint must include:
    • (1) A statement that a public agency has violated a requirement of Part B of the Act or of this part;
    • (2) The facts on which the statement is based;
    • (3) The signature and contact information for the complainant; and
    • (4) If alleging violations with respect to a specific child—
      • (i) The name and address of the residence of the child;
      • (ii) The name of the school the child is attending;
      • (iii) In the case of a homeless child or youth (within the meaning of section 725(2) of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 11434a(2)), available contact information for the child, and the name of the school the child is attending;
      • (iv) A description of the nature of the problem of the child, including facts relating to the problem; and
      • (v) A proposed resolution of the problem to the extent known and available to the party at the time the complaint is filed.
  • (c) The complaint must allege a violation that occurred not more than one year prior to the date that the complaint is received.
  • (d) The party filing the complaint must also forward a copy of the complaint to the LEA or public agency serving the child at the same time the party files the complaint with the SEA.

Is there a special form for filing a state complaint?

You do not have to use a specific form to file a state complaint. However, if the complaint does not contain all of the elements required by the IDEA it is not considered to be properly filed, and the investigation will not begin.

A model state complaint form is included in Appendix B, and is available on the MDE Website. Use of the model form will assist in meeting the state complaint requirements in the IDEA. Appendix C provides examples of allegations and supporting facts, which must be included in a state complaint.

How do I file a state complaint?

The state complaint is not considered filed and the investigation timeline does not begin until both the MDE and the public agency receive a copy of the state complaint that has of the components required by the IDEA regulations.

The complainant must mail, fax, or hand deliver the state complaint to:

1) The Michigan Department of Education
Office of Special Education and Early Intervention Services
P.O. Box 30008
Lansing, Michigan 48909
Fax: (517) 373-7504


2) The public agency which is the subject of the state complaint.

What options are there if I disagree with the final report/amended final report?

In some cases, a parent or the public agency may appeal a state complaint decision by filing a due process complaint with the MDE, which initiates a due process hearing. However, not all state complaint issues can be resolved in a due process hearing.

Any party aggrieved by the MDE decision in the final report/amended final report may file an action with a court of competent jurisdiction. In some cases, the party must have attempted to resolve the matter in a special education due process hearing before filing an action in a court.

Due to the complexity of the special education due process hearing system and court actions, the MDE recommends that parents consult with an attorney when considering what options are available when there is disagreement with the MDE final report/amended final report.

What is a due process complaint/hearing and how is it different from a state complaint investigation?

State complaint investigation:

  • During the investigation of a state complaint, the MDE/ISD staff may interview the complainant, review documents, and interview public agency personnel to determine whether the district is in compliance.
  • This process does not include formal testimony by experts or others, formal records of the proceedings, oaths, subpoenas, or other formal due process protections.
  • A state complaint must be filed within one year of the alleged violation.
  • A state complaint can be filed alleging a violation of any state or federal special education rule or regulation (refer to page 8-9, regarding definition of a state complaint).

Due process complaint/hearing:

  • A due process hearing is a formal administrative hearing conducted by an impartial administrative law judge (ALJ) who is an employee of the State Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules (SOAHR).
  • A due process hearing is initiated by filing a due process complaint.
  • The complainant and public agency have an opportunity to bring witnesses and cross examine witnesses, to have a record of the proceedings, and to enter and object to evidence.
  • Parties can subpoena witnesses, and testimony is under oath.
  • Parties have an opportunity to provide testimony by experts.
  • The ALJ decision can be appealed to a court of competent jurisdiction (state or federal courts).
  • A due process complaint must be filed within two years of the alleged violation.
  • A due process complaint/request for hearing can be filed related to a limited number of issues, which are outlined in §300.507(a)(1) of the IDEA regulations. 

Can I file a state complaint and a due process complaint? 

Filing a state complaint does not prevent parents or the public agency from filing a due process complaint requesting a hearing.

If any of the allegations in a state complaint are also the subject of a due process complaint, the state complaint investigation regarding those issues will be held in abeyance until the due process complaint is resolved (see page 13, “What happens when a complainant files a due process complaint and a state complaint about the same student?”).

For more information on due process complaints/hearings, refer to the Procedural Safeguards Notice (2009).

Where can additional information about the state complaint investigation process be found?

The Procedural Safeguards Notice has information about state complaint investigations and other dispute resolution procedures. School districts and public agencies must give parents a copy of the Procedural Safeguards the first time their child is referred for a special education evaluation, once a year while the child is receiving special education services, and at other times required under the IDEA regulations.

Contact the public agency, the ISD, or the MDE if you require a copy of the Procedural Safeguards Notice. The Procedural Safeguards Notice is available in English and other languages at Copies are also available in Braille.

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