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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.

What is the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and what type of complaints do they accept?

How do I file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR)?

What is an ISBE complaint, and how do I file?

What is mediation and how do I request it?

What is a due process hearing and how do I request one?

My child is constantly in trouble at school. How can I get the school to do a functional behavior plan and a behavior intervention plan?

How long can the school suspend my child?

What is a manifestation determination review (MDR) and why is it important?

What can the school do if my child brings drugs or a weapon to school, or if my child seriously injures someone at school? And when can the school place my child in an Interim Alternative Education Setting (IAES)?

What will happen at my child’s expulsion hearing and how can I prepare for it?

What happens if my child is expelled?

 

What is the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and what type of complaints do they accept?

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

How do I file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR)?

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

What is an ISBE complaint, and how do I file?

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
          • 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

What is mediation and how do I request it?

  • 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

What is a due process hearing and how do I request one?

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/

            .

My child is constantly in trouble at school. How can I get the school to do a functional behavior plan and a behavior intervention plan?

Ask the school to administer a functional behavior assessment (FBA). An FBA is a study of your child to find out why he or she is having behavior problems. It should include:

  • Observations of your child at school
  • An interview with your child, you (the parents) and your child’s teachers
  • A review of discipline records

After the school finishes the assessment, the individualized education program team should write a behavior intervention plan (BIP). A BIP is a plan that helps when your child’s behavior is affecting his or her learning or that of other students. The plan should:

  • Be tailored to your child’s needs.
  • Provide your child with support so he or she can make progress on school goals and avoid suspension and detention.
  • Include positive motivation so your child has a reason to improve behavior. For example, if your child loves to play on the computer, the plan could offer 10 minutes of computer time good behavior all morning. Behaving means different things for different children. It could mean staying seated and working quietly, or not cursing all morning.

How long can the school suspend my child?

Here are the rules on suspension:

  • The school may suspend a student for up to 10 school days for violations of the school’s discipline code.
  • The school normally cannot suspend your child for more than 10 school days in a row without having a meeting called a manifestation determination review (MDR). See information below.
  • The school also must hold a review if it has suspended your child for more than 10 school days during the school year for similar behavior problems.
  • The only time a school can immediately suspend your child for more than 10 days without holding an MDR is when your child:
    • Brings drugs to school
    • Brings a weapon to school
    • Causes serious bodily injury to someone at school

What is a manifestation determination review (MDR) and why is it important?

Here are the facts about an MDR:

  • The school cannot expel your child without first holding an MDR.
  • An MDR is a meeting the school calls if it wants to suspend or expel your child for more than 10 school days.
  • It must be held within 10 school days of the incident.
  • The IEP team decides whether your child’s behavior is a “manifestation” of a disability.
  • Your child’s behavior is a manifestation of a disability if it falls under one of these categories:
    • Substantially related to the disability
    • Caused by the disability
    • A direct result of the school’s not following your child’s individualized education program
  • If your child’s behavior is a manifestation of a disability, the school cannot expel your child.
  • If the IEP team decides that your child’s behavior is a manifestation of a disability, it must complete a Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA) or review your child’s existing FBA. The IEP team must do one of the following:
    • Create a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) to address the behavior discussed at the meeting
    • Changes to your child’s existing behavior plan so the school can provide support to address the behavior
    • If the IEP team decides that your child’s behavior is not a manifestation of his or her disability and you do not agree, you can file for an expedited due process hearing. If you want to do this, you should contact the clinic’s Helpline at 866-KIDS-046 (866-543-7046).

 

What can the school do if my child brings drugs or a weapon to school, or if my child seriously injures someone at school? And when can the school place my child in an Interim Alternative Education Setting (IAES)?

Your child may be immediately removed to another school setting, without regard to whether your child’s behavior is a manifestation of his or her disability, when he or she:

  • Seriously injures someone at school
  • Brings a weapon to school or to a school function
  • Possesses or uses illegal drugs, or sells or solicits the sale of these drugs at school

These are the facts about Interim Alternative Education Settings (IAES):

  • The school may place your child in an IAES for up to 45 days.
  • The IEP team determines the interim setting.
  • A common example of an IAES is an alternative school.
  • After the 45 school days are up, your child goes back to the previous school, unless the school district takes legal action to keep your child out.

What will happen at my child’s expulsion hearing and how can I prepare for it?

At the hearing:

  • The school will give reasons for the expulsion and the date the expulsion will start.
  • You have several rights at the expulsion hearing:
    • Having an attorney or advocate represent you.
    • Having witnesses tell why your child should not be expelled, presenting evidence and cross-examining the school’s witnesses.
    • Giving the reasons your child should not be expelled.
    • If you believe there has been a mistake and your child is innocent, your child can tell his or her “side of the story.”
  • Even if your child misbehaved, you may argue that he or she shouldn’t be expelled because:
    • The act of misconduct was not bad enough to deserve expulsion
    • This is the first instance of serious misconduct
    • The behavior did not disrupt the education of the other students
    • Expulsion is not in the best interest of your child

If the school district decides to expel your child after the expulsion hearing, you may appeal the decision by going to state court.

What happens if my child is expelled?

An expulsion removes your child from school for more than 10 days in a row. It can last from 11 days to two years.


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Last updated: March 25, 2021

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