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Special Education Dispute Resolution Process

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a process that incorporates mediation by trained mediators either through the Office of Administrative Hearings, Special Education Division or by California Department of Education (CDE) trained district or Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) staff.

Districts often use mediation panels comprised of trained parents and staff as well as trained mediators from the SELPAs that assist their districts with this process. There are several SELPAs and districts in California which have grants from the Special Education Division to serve as training sites for other districts to learn an ADR process.

Both parents and schools may request a mediation conference by submitting a written request to the Office of Administrative Hearings, Special Education Division via mail to, 2349 Gateway Oaks Drive, Suite 200, Sacramento, CA 95833, or facsimile to 916-263-0890. The request should provide as complete information as possible. Included should be:

  1. the name of the child
  2. the date of birth of the child
  3. the child's grade level
  4. the address where the child resides
  5. the school district where the child attends
  6. the school district where the child resides
  7. the parent or guardian's name, address, and telephone number
  8. any other school district or public agency that is responsible for providing services that should be a party in the mediation
  9. a brief explanation of why the mediation conference is being requested, and
  10. a proposed resolution of the problem.

The party should make it clear that he/she is asking for a prehearing request mediation.

Complaint Resolution

When a complaint alleges that there has been a failure to implement a federal or state special education or disability discrimination law or regulation by a public education agency (district, SELPA, county office etc.), the complaint resolution process is available to investigate the situation. The complaint process is available for any student or group of students who, because of disability, need special education and/or related aids and services. A complaint can be filed by anyone. The complaint must be in writing and should describe the problem and include all the information needed to support the allegation or complaint.

The Procedural Safeguards Referral Service (PSRS) is available to assist and to answer questions by telephone at 1-800-926-0648 from Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. When the written complaint is received by the California Department of Education, the PSRS staff delineates the violations and forwards the package to the Complaints Management and Mediation Unit for investigation. If a violation is substantiated, corrective actions are written and the district is required to satisfy the compensatory requirements. If the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation, they may file a request for reconsideration with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Under most circumstances, the complaint may be resolved at the local level. Within the 60 day timeline from initial filing to the investigation report, the first ten days may be used by the local district to resolve the issues and achieve completion to the satisfaction of the complainant. Fast Track Reports require the same components as a comprehensive compliance report, except the report can be accomplished in two pages. This requires that the Fast Track responds to limited number of allegations and the evidence must clearly reflect the compliance or noncompliance of the district that can be clearly presented in the two-page format.

Questions:   Special Education Division | 800-926-0648
Last Reviewed: Monday, September 28, 2015

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