From NICHCY’s series of model letters…because sometimes
you need to communicate with the school
about your child’s education.
3rd edition, January 2011
This short publication comes from a much longer Parent’s Guide that focuses on communicating with your child’s school via letter writing. There are times when you, as a parent, may want to communicate in writing with your child’s school about some problem or concern with your child’s education or well-being. Because the Parent’s Guide is so long, we decided it would be more convenient to our readers if each of the letters discussed in the guide was also available separately, to make reading and printing individual letters easier.
This page presents a model letter or email you might write to request a due process hearing as an approach to resolving a dispute with your child’s school.
Due process is one approach that parents and schools can use to resolve disagreements. Basically, in a due process hearing, you and the school present evidence before an impartial third person called a hearing officer. The hearing officer then decides how to resolve the problem.
You have the right to request a due process hearing on any matter related to:
- your child’s identification as a “child with a disability,”
- his or her evaluation,
- his or her educational placement, and
- the special education and related services that the school provides to your child.
When would I request a due process hearing?
Some reasons why a parent might file for due process include:
- The school refuses to evaluate your child.
- You disagree with the eligibility decision.
- You disagree with the services or goals in the IEP.
- The school refuses to provide a related service, modification, or supplementary aid you think your child needs.
- You disagree with the placement decision.
Generally speaking, when the family and school disagree, it is important for both sides to first discuss their concerns and try to reach a compromise. Remember, the goal is to provide an appropriate education for your child. There are many options when deciding what an appropriate education is, and some trial and error may be necessary to develop a successful program for your child.
However, if you and the school have fully communicated, understand each other’s positions, tried such strategies as IEP meetings and/or mediation, and you still disagree, you may want to request a due process hearing. A due process hearing is a formal proceeding. As was said above, you and the school system share your information and concerns in front of a qualified, impartial hearing officer.
The school system will probably be represented by an attorney. While parents are not required to have an attorney, you are strongly encouraged to have one. Your state’s Parent Training and Information (PTI) center will have information on special education attorneys in your area. The school system must also tell you about any free or low-cost legal (and other relevant) services available in the area if you request a due process hearing or if you simply request this information.
In the due process hearing, the hearing officer will listen to both you and the school system. The hearing officer will then make a decision about how to resolve the conflict, based upon the evidence and the requirements of law.
How do I request a due process hearing?
The first step is to file a due process complaint. This complaint must be signed and must include specific information:
- the name of your child;
- the address of your child’s residence;
- the name of your child’s school;
- a description of the problem, including facts relating to the problem; and
- how you would resolve the problem, to the extent that a solution is known and available to you as parents.
Information in the complaint must be kept confidential. Each state is required to have a model form to help parents write a due process complaint. You are not required to use the model form. However, if you want, you should be able to get a copy of this model from your school system or State Education Agency.
To whom do I send the complaint?
Your school district must have procedures in place so that you can file your complaint. You’ll need to ask what those are—the Director of Special Education in your school or district will know. This will include the person or office with whom you need to file your complaint. IDEA also requires that you provide a copy of your complaint to the other party (in this case, the school system) and to the State Education Agency.
What happens next?
If your complaint includes the required information and is deemed “sufficient,” quite a lot happens next!
First, within 10 days of receiving your complaint, the other party (i.e., the school system) will send you a response that specifically addresses the issues raised in your complaint. IDEA also requires that the school system convene a resolution meeting within 15 days of receiving notice that you have filed a due process complaint. The purpose of the resolution meeting is for you as parents to discuss your due process complaint and the facts that form the basis of that complaint, so that the school system has the opportunity to resolve the dispute without holding a due process hearing.
There’s a lot to know about due process complaints, resolution meetings, and due process hearings, far too much to explain it all here. We refer you to the detailed information available on our website, beginning at: http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/dueprocess/
General letter-writing tips
When writing any business letter, it is important to keep it short and to the point. First, start by asking yourself the following questions and state the answers in your letter:
- Why am I writing?
- What are my specific concerns?
- What are my questions?
- What would I like the person to do about this situation?
- What sort of response do I want: a letter, a meeting, a phone call, or something else?
Each letter you write should include the following basic information:
- Put the date on your letter.
- Give your child’s full name and the name of your child’s main teacher or current class placement.
- Say what you want, rather than what you don’t want. Keep it simple.
- Give your address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.
- Always end your letter with a “thank you.”
What are some other tips to keep in mind?
You want to make a good impression so that the person reading your letter will understand your request and say “yes.” Remember, this person may not know you, your child, or your child’s situation. Keep the tone of your letter pleasant and businesslike. Give the facts without letting anger, frustration, blame, or other negative emotions creep in. Some letter-writing tips include:
- After you write your first draft, put the letter aside for a day or two. Then look at it again and revise it with fresh eyes.
- Read your letter as though you are the person receiving it. Is your request clear? Have you included the important facts? Does your letter ramble on and on? Is it likely to offend, or is the tone businesslike?
- Have someone else read your letter for you. Is your reason for writing clear? Can the reader tell what you are asking for? Would the reader say “yes” if he or she received this letter? Can your letter be improved?
- Use spell check and grammar check on the computer. Or ask someone reliable to edit your letter before you send it.
- Keep a copy for your records.
Today’s Date (include month, day, and year)
City, State, Zip Code
Daytime telephone number
Name of person to whom you’re writing
City, State, Zip Code
Dear (Person’s name),
I am writing to request a due process hearing on behalf of my child, (child’s name), whose address is (give your child’s address, even if it is the same as your own). (Child’s name) attends (name of school).
I have met with school personnel in an effort to resolve our differences concerning my son’s/daughter’s (IEP, placement, testing, or . . . ) and have been unable to do so. The nature of our disagreement is as follows:
Explain the problem with BRIEF statements of fact.
Consider listing the facts with bullets or numbers.
An acceptable resolution of the problem would include . . . (To the extent that you know how you want the disagreement to be resolved, state these facts here, again bulleting or numbering the items if possible.)
Please advise me as soon as possible as to the date and time of this hearing so that I can make the necessary arrangements. My daytime telephone number is (give your phone number).
I also request that this hearing be (open/closed) to persons other than those directly involved. (Child’s name) will/will not attend the hearing. Thank you for your assistance.
cc: your child’s principal
your advocate or attorney
Note: The “cc:” at the bottom of the letter means you are sending a copy of your letter to the people listed after the cc.
Would you like to read another letter?
Discussing a problem
Requesting a copy of your child’s records
Requesting an evaluation for special education services
Requesting an independent evaluation
Requesting a meeting to review your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Requesting a change in your child’s placement
Informing the school that you intend to place your child in a private school at public expense
Requesting prior written notice
Requesting mediation to resolve a conflict
Requesting a due process hearing to resolve a conflict
(you’re already here)
Filing a complaint with the State to resolve a conflict