Skip to main content

Dispute Resolution

Filing a Special Education Complaint with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE)

If you have concerns that the school district is not following federal or state special education requirements, you have the right to file a special education complaint in writing.

Prior to filing a complaint, PACER Center encourages you to contact the special education director of your school district. You may be able to resolve the concerns at the local level. If not, use the information below to help you file a special education complaint with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).

This option is available for IEP (Individualized Education Program), IIIP (Individual Interagency Intervention Plan), and IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan) meetings.

Complete Due Process Options Chart

Parents Need to Know

  • Issues: Claim that district is not following special education laws or regulation
  • Who is usually involved: Parent(s), organization or any citizen; MDE, Division of Compliance and Assistance
  • Decision maker(s): MDE, Division of Compliance and Assistance
  • Timeline: File within one year of violation; final decision by MDE 60 calendar days from filing
  • Cost (parent pays): None

Points of Interest

  • Anyone can file a complaint if they feel a violation has occurred
  • MDE complaint investigator makes the decision; decisions can be appealed


Include the Required Information in Your Written Complaint

  • Basic Information:
    • Student’s name, address, and the name of the school the student attends
    • Your name, phone number(s) where the MDE complaint investigator can reach you, address, (if different from the student’s), and email address (if applicable)
  • Statement of Alleged Violation
    • List each violation of federal or state special education requirements you believe occurred
    • Check your calendar. The violations you listed must have happened within one year of the date MDE receives your complaint.
  • Statement of Facts
    • For each violation, list the facts that support your claim
    • Focus on brief descriptions of key events, specific dates, related documents, and the names of individuals involved
  • Proposed Resolution
    • List action steps you want the district to take to resolve your complaint
    • The MDE complaint investigator will consider your suggestions if the district is found in violation of special education law

Submit Your Signed Complaint to the Required Recipients

Minnesota Department of Education (MDE)

  • Mail, hand-deliver, fax, or scan and email your complaint to:
    Minnesota Department of Education
    Special Education Dispute Resolution Supervisor
    Division of Compliance and Assistance
    1500 Highway 36 West
    Roseville, MN 55113-4266
  • Alternative contact methods can be found on the MDE website

PACER Center encourages you to keep a copy of the complaint for your own records

The School District

  • Federal law requires that you send a copy of your complaint to the school district at the same time that you send it to the MDE
  • You can mail your complaint to the superintendent and/or the special education director.

Next Steps

Within 60 calendar days of receiving the complaint, an MDE complaint investigator will make an independent decision about whether the school violated special education law. You will be notified by mail of the decision, which is binding. If violations are found, the MDE may develop a corrective action plan to fix the problem. If no violations are found, the MDE will close the file. Either party may file an appeal with the Minnesota Court of Appeals within 60 calendar days of receiving a copy of the final decision.

Examples of Possible Violations and Resolutions

The school district did not invite a general education teacher to the Annual Review meeting for my child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The district will schedule another IEP team meeting which includes a general education teacher and all school staff will receive training on who are the required members of the IEP team.

The classroom teacher has not been providing the accommodations listed on my daughter’s IEP, so she hasn’t had access to the assistive technology she needs to complete writing assignments.

My daughter will be provided the opportunity to re-do her writing assignments for a new grade, using the assistive technology devices that are documented on her IEP.

For the last three months, my son’s special education teacher has been on sick leave. He has not received the specialized instruction written in his IEP.

The district will provide my son with compensatory services to make up for all the minutes of specialized instruction he missed for the last three months.