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Why Parents File IDEA Complaints, Lawsuits

Conflicts Causing Parents to File Formal Complaints


Updated August 16, 2011

Special education disagreements happen. Parents of children with learning disabilities may sometimes disagree with how schools manage their children's programs. Fortunately, many of those disagreements can be resolved informally. When problems are severe, parents may need to take formal actions to get them resolved. Learning the top conflicts that cause parents to file formal complaints or take legal actions against school districts can help you determine if you need to do the same.

1. Failure to Communicate - Teachers and Staff Not Reporting Progress to Parents

When teachers and school staff do not share progress reports with parents, conflicts can arise. Failure to communicate can be caused by:
  • Failure to agree upon what will be communicated, how, and when;
  • Parents and / or teachers misunderstanding what was agreed;
  • Forgetfulness;
  • Lack of classroom support needed to implement the plan;
  • Lack of cooperation from the child to follow his part of the plan;
  • A teacher agreeing to implement a plan she could not realistically implement;
  • Unreasonable expectations from parents;
  • In rare instances, teachers or school staff may not implement a plan because of willful non-compliance or negligence;
  • Communication within the family is not effective.

2. Difficult Communication With Schools - Hostility Between Parents, School Staff

Conflicts are worsened when parents and school staff are hostile with each other. When parents' and teachers' behaviors become disrespectful and angry, relationships can become so strained that the child can suffer emotionally and academically. Some reasons hostile relationships can develop include:
  • Parents and/or teachers do not respect each other;
  • Teachers, administrators, or parents refuse to make changes to accommodate the child;
  • Parents make unrealistic demands in an angry, confrontational manner;
  • Parents or teachers feel they are not valued, their input is not wanted, and that the child is not receiving an appropriate education; and
  • The school or home environment is negative, unsafe, rigid, or nonsupportive.

3. Failure to Provide Instruction and Services - School Does Not Implement IEP

Failure to provide specially designed instruction, implement an IEP, or provide related services required on an IEP is a frequent reason parents file formal complaints against school districts. Failure to implement an IEP may involve:
  • Students not receiving specially designed instruction;
  • Students not receiving adaptations and modifications for testing; or
  • Students not receiving related services such as speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or other services listed on the IEP.

4. Failure to Provide Equal Access to School Programs and Services

When schools fail to provide equal access to programs and services such as extra-curricular activities, sports programs, or access to advanced courses with reasonable accommodations, parents may file complaints. In many cases, such problems are covered under Section 504. In some cases, however, denial of access to school programs and services can fall under IDEA.

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