Dispute Resolution Options

Descriptions of the dispute resolution options for students with disabilities.

Administrative Review

An administrative review (AR) is a Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) informal, voluntary process to resolve special education and Section 504 disputes, convened at the request of the parent or the school principal. The parent or principal must submit a written request specifically describing their concern that is signed and dated to the office of Due Process and Eligibility. Issues related to child find, special education eligibility or Section 504 qualification, manifestation determination review or 504 causality hearing, and individualized education program (IEP)/504 Plan can be addressed through an AR. The administrative review committee consists of FCPS staff members with specific expertise, who have not had prior involvement and are impartial. The administrative review committee considers all available, relevant oral and written information before rendering an opinion or decision. A summary statement of the review discussion, opinion, and recommendations is provided to the parent and becomes part of the student record. The entire process typically takes up to six weeks to complete.

Due Process Hearing

A due process hearing (DPH) is an impartial administrative legal process utilized to resolve disputes. It is conducted by an independent hearing officer appointed by the Supreme Court of Virginia. The parent or FCPS may initiate a request for a due process hearing based on alleged violations that occurred not more than two (2) years before the date the parent or FCPS knew, or should have known, about the alleged violation. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is responsible for ensuring that the hearing officer’s decision and the management of the hearing comports with federal and state mandates. Additional information is located at the VDOE Special Education Due Process Hearings webpage

Facilitated IEP

A facilitated IEP (FIEP) meeting uses a facilitator appointed by the VDOE, to assist with communication in developing an IEP. Both the parent and the school must agree to a FIEP. A facilitator can assist the team in establishing an agenda; making sure everyone has a chance to speak and be heard; helping to keep the team on task and within the time allotted; and seeks to improve clarity and understanding in communications. Additional information is located at the VDOE Facilitated IEPs webpage.

Mediation

Mediation is a voluntary and confidential dispute resolution process available to the parent and FCPS through the VDOE Statewide Special Education Mediation System. Both the parent and school must agree to enter the mediation process. Mediation can be an effective tool to address and resolve disputes, including matters arising prior to the filing of a request for a due process hearing. The entire process typically takes up to six weeks to complete. Additional information is located at the VDOE Special Education Mediation webpage

Office for Civil Rights Complaint

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces several federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Education. Anyone who believes that an education institution that receives federal financial assistance has discriminated against someone on the basis of one of these protected classes may file a complaint with the OCR. The Due Process and Eligibility office collaborates with other FCPS stakeholders to respond to OCR complaints that allege the school division discriminated against a student based on disability. Additional information is located at the U.S. Department of Education OCR Complaint Process webpage

Resolution

A resolution meeting is a dispute resolution process that may take place after a parent requests a due process hearing. Resolution meetings offer parents and school divisions the opportunity to resolve issues before a due process hearing occurs. Participants include the parent, FCPS staff, and attorneys, if appropriate. The school division must hold a resolution meeting within 15 calendar days of receiving notice of a parent’s due process hearing request. An informal resolution meeting can be requested outside a DPH to resolve disputes locally. This informal resolution meeting can address issues related to special education or Section 504.

Section 504 Impartial Hearing

A Section 504 impartial hearing may be requested by FCPS, or the parent or guardian of a student with a disability as defined by Section 504 to resolve any disagreement regarding the identification, evaluation, accommodations, modifications, and/or services; provision of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE); or causality determination of a student with a disability. A hearing may only be requested within one year of the date the parents knew, or should have known, about the alleged actions or facts that form the basis of the complaint.

State Complaint

A state complaint is a request for the VDOE to investigate an alleged violation of special education regulations by a local educational agency. A complaint is a statement of some disagreement with a procedure or process regarding any matter relative to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of a free appropriate public education. A state complaint is not designed for violations of Civil Rights related to disability nor does it address personnel issues or general education matters. The VDOE has sixty calendar days to respond. Additional information is located at the VDOE Special Education Complaints webpage

Additional Resources

There is no required format for a parent to initiate an appeal. However, the Notice of Appeal (SS/SE-130) form may be helpful in articulating concerns. If you have questions concerning any of the above processes, contact the office of Due Process and Eligibility at 571-423-4470.