6 Common Questions About Special Education Complaints

Special education decisions will sometimes lead to disagreements between parents and school districts. While many educational plans will be developed with little or no problems, conflict may arise in others. However, disagreements do not mean disaster. Differences do not mean failure. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) presumes that differences may arise. 

One way to resolve disputes under the IDEA is by filing a complaint with the South Dakota Department of Education. Upon receiving a complaint under this process, the Department must conduct an independent investigation. It should be noted that a complaint under this procedure is not the same as a due process complaint.

Here Are 6 Common Questions About Formal Complaints To The Department

What is a state (formal) special education complaint?

A state (formal) complaint is a written signed statement by an individual or organization, including an individual or organization from another state, containing a statement that the Department or a school district has violated a requirement of federal or state statutes, rules, or regulations that apply to a program and a statement of the facts on which the complaint is based. 

When does a complaint need to be filed?

A complaint must allege a violation that occurred not more than one year before the date the complaint is received by the Department.

What does the complaint need to allege?

The written signed complaint must include:

          (1)  The signature and contact information for the complainant; and

          (2)  If alleging violations with respect to a specific student:

                   a.  The name and address of the residence of the student;

                   b.  The name of the school the student is attending;

                   c.  In the case of a homeless student or youth, available contact information for the student and the name of the school the student is attending;

                   d.  A description of the nature of the problem of the student, including facts related to the problem; and

                   e.  A proposed resolution of the problem to the extent known and available to the party at the time the complaint is filed.

What are the Department’s remedies if a violation is found?

In resolving a complaint in which it has found a failure to provide appropriate services, the Department must address:

  1. The failure to provide appropriate services, including corrective actions appropriate to address the needs of the student such as compensatory services or monetary reimbursement; and
  1. Appropriate future provision of services for all students with disabilities.

What is the procedure for filing a complaint?

An organization or individual may file a written, signed complaint with the state director of special education. The party filing the complaint must forward a copy of the complaint to the school district serving the student at the same time the party files the complaint with the Department. 

What is the procedure if a complaint is also the subject of a due process hearing?

If a written complaint is also the subject of a due process hearing or contains multiple issues, of which one or more are part of the due process hearing, the Department must set aside any part of the complaint that is being addressed in the due process hearing until the conclusion of the hearing. However, any issue in the complaint that is not a part of the due process action must be resolved using this chapter’s time limits and procedures.

If an issue is raised in a complaint that has previously been decided in a due process hearing involving the same parties, the hearing decision is binding on that issue and the Department must inform the complainant. A complaint alleging a school district’s failure to implement a due process decision must be resolved by the Department. 

For more information about special education law in South Dakota, read Chapter 21 of the South Dakota School Law Deskbook.

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