Parents, and others, who have complaints about the special education services being provided by a school district may file a complaint with the Texas Education Agency (TEA). TEA is required to operate a complaint process for addressing any violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) involving the identification, evaluation, or placement of a student with a disability or the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to the student. They must also investigate complaints that a district has violated a state special education law or rule.
What are the first steps in filing a complaint about special education?
The parent should try to resolve the complaint with the school district by going to an Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meeting before filing a complaint with TEA. For example, if the parent believes that the school district staff is not implementing the modifications called for in the Individualized Education Program (IEP), the parent should bring that to the attention of the ARD Committee and complain to TEA if it continues to be a problem.
What evidence do special education complaints need?
To file a successful complaint, you need good documentation. Parents should always make sure that the ARD Committee documents any requests they make at the meeting, or any disagreements that occur over services or placement. For example, if the parent requests an assistive technology evaluation for their child and the district denies this request, the parent needs to make sure that the denial is made in writing and is either included in the IEP or written into the discussion notes (or minutes) that are attached to the ARD document. The parent must remember to sign that they “disagree” with the decision made. If the parent only disagrees with part of the IEP, for example a refusal to provide speech therapy, then the parent can write on the IEP that they disagree with that decision and that they agree with all of the other decisions. It is also a good idea to specifically write into the discussion notes the reasons why the parent disagrees. The school district then must provide the parent with written notice that it is refusing to provide the requested service or placement.
How are complaints filed?
Complaints are filed by writing a letter to TEA or using a form available on the TEA website. Whether you write a letter or use the TEA form, you must sign it, or it will not be processed as a complaint.
IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) requires complaints to be in writing; therefore, a telephone call to TEA will not be considered a complaint. However, parents can call TEA at 800-252-9668 to discuss problems they are having; TEA, however, will NOT consider these to be actual complaints until they receive a complaint in writing. TEA's address is:
Texas Education Agency
Division of IDEA Coordination
1701 North Congress Avenue Austin, Texas 78701
You may want to send the letter by certified mail so that you have a record of when it was received by TEA. However, you can also fax it. You must also send a copy of the complaint to the school district. In your complaint, include the name and title of the school district employee you sent the complaint to and how it was sent (hand delivery, fax, or mail). Parents should keep a copy of the letter and copies of TEA's responses. Also, parents should keep copies of any letters they send to the district and any letters that the district sends to them, as well as copies of all of their child's records. Parents should also keep notes about any phone conversations they have with TEA or district staff.
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