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Dispute Resolution

Minnesota Dispute Resolution Guide

An Overview of Your Options for Resolving Differences With the School District

Built into the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Minnesota’s special education laws are a variety of ways to resolve disagreements.  PACER encourages families to  first share your concerns with the Individualized Education Program (IEP) case manager and/or the school district’s director of special education.  If you and the school district cannot agree, you have a range of options for resolving disagreements. 

Minnesota Due Process Options Chart

Use this chart to see a high level comparison of how the below options compare to each other.

Dispute Options Chart
Click to open as a PDF file

Options

Conciliation Conference (Minnesota specific)

  • Why request: If you disagree with a proposal or a refusal in a Prior Written Notice from the school district related to your student’s special education evaluation, identification, placement, or services
  • How to request: You have the right to object in writing on the form provided by the school district or otherwise in writing and request a conciliation conference within 14 calendar days of the date the Prior Written Notice is sent to you. *
  • Who participates: Appropriate school district staff and parents. If you have consulted with a PACER advocate prior to the meeting, you may request they attend.
  • Timeline: The conciliation conference must be held within 10 calendar days from the date the school district receives your request for a conciliation conference.
  • Decision makers: Parents and school district staff.
  • Outcome: Within five school days after the final conciliation conference, the school district must provide you with a conciliation conference memorandum that describes the school district’s final proposed offer of service and any proposed Individualized Education Program (IEP) or evaluation plan resulting from the conference.

* Note: You also have the option of requesting a meeting with appropriate members of the IEP team to resolve your objections.

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Facilitated Team Meetings

  • Why request: If you and the school district cannot reach agreement on how to write an appropriate IEP or Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) for your child and you need the assistance of a neutral party.
  • How to request: Download and complete a Request for Facilitated Team Meeting form and send it directly to [email protected]
  • Who participates: This is a voluntary process. If you and the school district both agree to a facilitated team meeting, participants include the entire IEP, IFSP, or multi-agency team and an impartial facilitator assigned by the Minnesota Department of Education. The facilitator helps maintain open and respectful communication among team members, offers ways to address and resolve conflicts that may arise, and keeps the focus on your student’s needs. If you have consulted with a PACER advocate prior to the meeting, you may request they attend.
  • Timeline: The meeting is held as soon as possible after the Minnesota Department of Education receives a completed request form from both the school district and the parents (usually within three weeks).
  • Decision makers: IEP, IFSP, or multi-agency team.
  • Outcome: If agreement is reached, an appropriate IEP or IFSP is developed for your student.  Following the facilitated team meeting, the school district sends you a Prior Written Notice and a new IEP or IFSP proposal.

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Mediation

  • Why request: If you and the school district are struggling to resolve a disagreement and you need the assistance of a neutral party to clearly communicate concerns, find common ground, and explore possible solutions.
  • How to request: Download and complete a Request for Mediation form and send it directly to [email protected].
  • Who participates: This is a voluntary process. If you and the school district both agree to a mediation, participants include parents, a school district representative with decision-making authority, educators who have direct experience with your student and knowledge of your student’s programs and services, and an impartial mediator assigned by the Minnesota Department of Education.  The mediator supports a constructive, forward looking conversation about the issues and leads a problem solving session to find an acceptable resolution for all. If you have consulted with a PACER advocate prior to the meeting, you may request they attend.
  • Timeline: The meeting must be held in a timely manner (typically within three weeks from the date the Minnesota Department of Education receives a completed request form from both the school district and the parents).
  • Decision makers: Parents and school district staff.
  • Outcome: If agreement is reached, a legally binding Mediated Agreement is signed by the school district’s authorized representative and the parent. The terms of a Mediated Agreement include how the issues will be resolved, who is responsible to implement the terms, and a timeline for implementation.

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Special Education Complaint

  • Why request: If you have concerns that the school district is not following federal or state special education laws, regulations, or rules.
  • How to file: Download and complete a Special Education State Complaint form and send it directly to [email protected].
  • Who is involved: Person filing the complaint, Minnesota Department of Education complaint investigator, special education director and other school district staff the Minnesota Department of Education complaint investigator may interview during the complaint investigation.
  • Timeline: You have one calendar year from the date of an alleged violation of special education law to file a complaint. The Minnesota Department of Education has 60 calendar days from the date your complaint is received to investigate and write a decision. Exceptional circumstances may extend the investigation time frame.
  • Decision maker: Minnesota Department of Education Division of Compliance & Assistance.
  • Outcome: The Minnesota Department of Education complaint investigator sends copies of the final decision to you and the school district.  If no violation is found, the file is closed.  If the school district is found in violation of special education law, the Minnesota Department of Education may develop a corrective action plan to resolve the problem and this will be included in the decision.  Either party may appeal the decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals within 60 calendar days.

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Due Process Complaints and Hearings

  • Why request: If you have a dispute with the school district over the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or the provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education to your child with a disability. If you have a dispute with the school district over a manifestation determination or a discipline-related decision affecting your child’s placement, you can file an expedited due process complaint.
  • How to file: Download and complete a Due Process Complaint and Request for Hearing form and send it directly to [email protected].
  • Who is involved: Parents and school district staff.  The school district usually has legal representation, but attorneys are not required for either party.  If the complaint goes to a due process hearing, an Administrative Law Judge from the Office of Administrative Hearings, trained in federal and state special education law, will preside over the  hearing.
  • Timeline: The complaint must be filed within two years of the date the parent or the school district knew or should have known about the alleged action that forms the basis of the complaint.  A decision may be issued within 75 calendar days from the date a due process complaint is filed, but this time frame is often extended for good cause.  Expedited due process hearings must be held within 20 school days from the date an expedited due process complaint is filed, and a decision must be issued within 10 school days after the hearing.  The time frames for expedited due process complaints cannot be extended.
  • Decision maker: Administrative Law Judge
  • Outcome: A legally binding decision issued by the Administrative Law Judge.  Either party may appeal the decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals within 60 calendar days or to federal district court within 90 calendar days.

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Discrimination Complaint

  • Why request: If you have concerns that your child has experienced discrimination based on belonging to any protected class.  Examples of protected classes are disability, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, age, sexual orientation, or familial status.
  • How to file a complaint with the school district: Your child’s school is required to publish the school district policies that protect students from discrimination.  If you cannot find your school district’s nondiscrimination policy and discrimination complaint procedures on the website, contact the superintendent’s office directly to request the policy and procedures in writing, including which school district staff person should receive your complaint.
  • How to file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights: The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is the civil rights enforcement agency for the state, charged with enforcing the Minnesota Human Rights Act.  Filing a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights is not the same as filing a lawsuit.  You do not need to have legal representation to file a complaint. 

    Additional Information: Minnesota Department of Human Rights’ complaint investigation process - mn.gov
  • How to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights:  The Office for Civil Rights is a federal agency that enforces several federal civil rights laws, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  The mission of the Office for Civil Rights is ensuring equal access to education through vigorous enforcement of the civil rights of every student in the United States. 

    Additional Information: Office for Civil Rights complaint investigation process - ed.gov

Learn More

This guide is only intended to provide a broad overview of your options.  For further information, call PACER Center at 952-838-9000 and ask to speak with an Advocate or email [email protected].  You can also contact the Minnesota Department of Education at 651-582-8689 or email [email protected].

Partial funding for this webpage was provided by the Minnesota Department of Education.