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Resolving disputes for children with special education needs

The state of Georgia and the federal government have adopted numerous programs to help children with special education needs. These programs can be very complex; both parents and administrators are often left wondering about the correct solution. Occasionally, these differences lead to genuine good faith disputes between parents and administrators. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has established a dispute resolution process that is intended to protect the rights of the child and ensure that the law is followed.

The dispute resolution process begins with the filing of a complaint by any individual or organization with an interest in the interpretation of the law or regulation at issue. The complaint must be filed within one year of the alleged violation. The Division of Special Education Services within the Georgia Department of Education will resolve the issue within 60 days.

Any parent or any part of the state system can call for mediation of a dispute, but both parties must agree to participate. Mediation can be used to resolve any dispute about any provision of the IDEA federal regulations or the Rules for Special Education adopted by the Georgia Department of Education.

The final step in the dispute resolution process is a request for a due process hearing. Due process hearings are usually held after a parent has requested such relief and has identified any problem with evaluation or educational placement of a child with special needs. The due process hearing must be convened within 15 days after receipt of the due process hearing request. The hearing will be conducted by an administrative law judge. The ALJ will issue a decision that will take effect only upon the written acceptance of both parties. If a decision is accepted, it has the force of law and will bind both parties.

Anyone who may have a dispute involving the program for special education may wish to consult an attorney with experience in special needs planning for advice before commencing any of the various alternatives for dispute resolution.

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