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Advancing the Human & Civil Rights of People with Disabilities in Illinois

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FAQ

Purple balloon that says, "I don't agree wit the school. What are my options?"Find answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about conflict resolution. Just click on a question below to reveal the answer associated with it.

You may file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights if a school is treating your child differently because of a disability.

  • The U.S. Department of Education’s OCR is a federal agency that ensures that schools comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (anti-discrimination law).
  • You may file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights if a school is treating your child differently because of a disability.
  • OCR does not enforce IDEA (the special education law).
  • OCR will probably not solve your complaint about an IDEA issue, which would include IEP issues.
  • For help deciding whether this is the right place for your complaint, see the OCR website.

Write a letter to OCR that includes:

  • Your name and address
  • The story of your child’s different/discriminatory treatment because of his or her disability and how it hurt him or her
  • The name and address of the school
  • A description of the different treatment with details so that OCR can understand:
    • What happened
    • When it happened
    • The reason for the different treatment, such as your child’s disability

     

Paper Trail

Remember, you must have proof, a “paper trail,” to show what happened. Send copies of that “paper trail” to OCR with your letter.
Illinois residents without Internet access may send a letter to:
Office for Civil Rights/Chicago
U.S. Department of Education
Citigroup Center
500 W. Madison St.
Suite 1475
Chicago, IL 60661

You may file a complaint with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) if the school has not followed special education laws. Examples include not following your child’s IEP.

  • You must write a letter explaining the specific failure by the school and what you are asking the board of education to do.
  • Important things to know when filing an ISBE complaint:
    • Whatever you are complaining about must have happened within the past year.
    • It is important to send proof of the wrongdoing with your letter, such as the IEP or other school documents.
    • It is best to have a “paper trail” that shows the failure of the school.
    • What do I put in the ISBE complaint?
      • Your name and child’s name
      • The school’s name
      • Details about what the school did wrong and the facts to support your statement
      • How does the ISBE complaint process work?
        • The ISBE has 60 days to resolve the complaint. 
        • The ISBE will:
          • Review your letter
          • Send the school a copy of your letter (complaint)
          • Ask the school to respond
          • To find out more information, see ISBE’s description of the special education complaint investigation process at www.isbe.net/spec-ed/html/complaint_investigation.htm.
          • If you do not have Internet access, you may send your letter to:

The Illinois State Board of Education Special Education Services Division 100 N. First St. Springfield, IL 62777-0001

  • Important things to know about mediation:
    •  A parent or school district can ask the state to provide a mediator at any time.
    • It is free.
    •  Mediation is voluntary, which means both parties have to agree to mediate.
    •  If you or the school does not want to mediate, it will not happen.
    •  Either side can stop mediation at any time.
    • The mediation will take place on a date that everyone agrees to.
    • The mediator is an impartial person who will try to help both sides reach an agreement.
    • Mediation is confidential. Anything said at mediation cannot be repeated outside the room or in a due process hearing.
    •  Mediation is binding on both parties.
      • It is very important that any agreement be written.
      • An agreement should state exactly what each party will do, by when, and what will happen if the parties don’t do what they have agreed to.
  • How do I request mediation?

You can write or call:

Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE)
100 N. First St.
Springfield, IL 62777-0001
217-782-5589 (mediation coordinator)
Toll free: 866-262-6663

A due process hearing is an administrative hearing, like a trial, with a hearing officer (judge) and witnesses.

  • You must prepare to go to trial if you file for a due process hearing.
  • You do not need a lawyer, but it is helpful to have one.
    •  In Illinois, one research study showed that from 1997 to 2002, parents without a lawyer won only a little more than 16 percent of due process hearings.
    •  In the same study, parents who had a lawyer won 49 percent of the hearings.
    • If you use a lawyer, find one who knows special education law before you request a due process hearing.
    • Important things to know about due process hearings:
      • In Illinois, the IDEA 2004 limits due process hearing issues and remedies to two years before the date of the hearing request.
      • You can ask a hearing officer to correct a problem that has occurred within the last two years, but you may not request relief for a problem that goes past that two-year period, unless it is recurring or fits another of some very narrow exceptions.
      • How do I request a due process hearing?
        •  Send a letter to the school superintendent and the ISBE (in Illinois).
        •  The letter should include:
          • Identifying information, such as your name, your child’s name and the school’s name
          • The problem
          • Your proposed solution
          • There are very specific rules for what must be in a due process request letter and in the hearing.  You can find Illinois’ rules by looking at the website: www.isbe.state.il.us/.


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Last updated: April 17, 2014

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