In our last post, we began speaking about the process of filing a complaint with the California Department of Education when a school district fails to comply with an individualized education program (IEP). It should be clarified that compliance complaints are different from due process hearings, which would be appropriate when there is a disagreement about the terms of an IEP. When the issue is failure to follow special education laws or to carry out the terms of an existing IEP, though, a compliance complaint is appropriate.
It isn’t only parents who can file compliance complaints, but also public agencies or organizations. In many cases, the California Department of Education will refer a complaint to the local district for self-investigation, but in certain cases the department will directly intervene. Cases where a disabled student is not receiving special education services or services laid out in his or her IEP involve the department’s direct intervention.
Working with an attorney in the compliance complaint process can be helpful for various reasons. For one thing, an attorney who has experience with the process will make sure a complainant doesn’t miss any deadlines and that the complaint process is handled within statutory time limits. Secondly, an experienced attorney can help make sure the process doesn’t take any longer than it has to because of unnecessary delays. For instance, complaints which involve one or two relatively simple compliance issues may be submitted for expedited investigation, and an attorney can help a complainant apply for this process.
A third reason it can be helpful to work with an experienced attorney is that one will have the guidance necessary to navigate the appeals process. An appeal might be necessary, for instance, in due process cases where a complainant disagrees with a school district’s investigation, or in IEP compliance cases involving services that were supposed to be provided by California Children’s Services or community mental health. Whatever the specific circumstances of the case, an experienced attorney can help make sure that a complainant’s rights and interests are protected and advocated.