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Dispute Resolution

Due Process Options in the Special Education Process

Built into the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Minnesota’s special education rules, are ways to resolve disagreements. If you and the school cannot agree, PACER encourages you to use one of these options.

PACER encourages families to try to resolve differences by first sharing their concerns with their Individualized Education Program (IEP) case manager and/or the school district’s director of special education. If differences are not resolved at that level, and depending on which option is chosen.

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


Conciliation Conference (Minnesota specific)

If a parent objects to a proposal or refusal from the district, they must have an opportunity to request at least one conciliation conference. The conference must be held within ten calendar days of the district’s receipt of the parent’s objection and request for a conciliation conference. It must be held at a mutually convenient time and place. Within five school days after the final conciliation conference, the district must provide a written memo to the parents with the districts final proposed offer of services. The district must participate if a parent requests a conciliation conference.


Parents or school staff may request mediation which involves an impartial mediator assigned by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). Mediation is provided at no cost to either party. Both parties must agree to mediate, and the discussions that occur during the mediation are confidential and cannot be used in a due process hearing. Any agreements reached will be written up by the mediator, and reviewed by both parties. If they agree, both parties sign the document, which is a binding document.

Facilitated Team Meetings

Parents or the school can request a facilitated team meeting which also includes a facilitator assigned by the MDE at no cost to either party. The facilitator’s role is to promote effective communication and assist the IEP team in the development of the IEP. The meeting can address specific areas of concern or disagreement or the complete IEP document.

Special Education Complaint

If anyone feels that the IEP isn’t being followed, a complaint can be filed with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). An investigator at MDE is then assigned to determine if a child’s rights have been violated. A decision on the complaint will be made within 60 calendar days from the filing date of the complaint.

Discrimination Complaint

If you have concerns that your child has experienced discrimination based on disability and/or belonging to any other protected class, you have options for filing a complaint with your school district, with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR), or with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

Due Process Complaints and Hearings

A parent or district may file a written due process complaint with the Minnesota Department of Education.  A resolution meeting with the parents and relevant team members must be  held within 15 calendar days of the school district receiving notice of the complaint.  If all parties are in agreement, the resolution session may be waived or mediation may be used in lieu of the resolution meeting.  If the matter is not resolved within 30 days of receipt of the due process compliant, a hearing may be held.  If a hearing is held, an Administrative Law Judge from the Office of Administrative Hearings will make a decision on the case within 45 days following the expiration of the 30 day resolution period.  There is an appeal process available to both parties if not satisfied with the final decision.  Most parents will use an attorney for this process.