When Schools and Families Do Not Agree

Productive, shared decision-making among families and school team members is an important factor in ensuring a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) for each child with a disability.  

Relationships and trust are the core of family-school partnership; differences in perspective and opinion among parents and professionals, within and beyond the evaluation and IEP process, are expected and valuable when productively managed. 

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) recognizes that shared decision-making can be challenging, and there are times when family and school team members do not reach agreement or when a student’s entitlements may come under question. 

The RIDE Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports (OSCAS) offers several state level options to assist families and schools in resolving issues that remain even after those issues are reconsidered through local, informal dispute resolution. 

If you need assistance with the option that is right for you, you are welcome to contact the: 


RI Special Education Procedural Safeguards 

Federal and state laws and regulations* require that schools provide the parents of a child with a disability a full explanation of their rights in the special education process.  

These rights are described in writing in the RI Special Education Procedural Safeguards Notice, Model Form: 

Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Arabic translations of the Rhode Island Special Education Procedural Safeguards may be accessed at this link. 

A Facilitated IEP/504 (FIEP) meeting is a voluntary service, offered at no cost to families and schools. It is not required by the IDEA, but can be used to resolve disagreement and support IEP/504 teams in developing an IEP/504 for a student with a disability. In an FIEP meeting, an impartial facilitator guides the IEP/504 team through the meeting process. The facilitator does not make decisions, but rather supports effective communication and collaborative decision-making among the team.  

Who can request a Facilitated IEP/504 meeting? 

Parents/guardians, adult students, and school district personnel with the approval of their Special Education Director may request special education mediation.    

How can a Facilitated IEP/504 meeting be requested? 

Requests for a Facilitated IEP/504 meeting can be made by completing a request form. For more information about Facilitated IEP/504 meetings or to access the request form, visit here


Special education state mediation is a voluntary, confidential and impartial process offered at no cost to parents and schools for resolving disagreements about special education. A mediator is a neutral third party appointed by the RIDE Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports (OSCAS), who is qualified to assist the parties in reaching an agreement by supporting effective communication; identifying issues; helping the participants find common ground and consider solutions; and assisting the parent and school department in resolving the issues. The mediator does not take sides and does not make a decision on behalf of the parties. 

Who can request special education mediation? 

Parents/guardians, adult students, and school district personnel may request special education mediation.  

What issues can be mediated? 

The special education mediation process can be used to address any disagreement regarding a student with a disability.   

How can special education mediation be requested? 

Requests for special education mediation may be made via telephone request by calling the OSCAS Special Education Call Center at (401) 222-8999 or by making an electronic written request by emailing RIDECallCenter@ride.ri.gov


A special education state complaint is a signed, written statement alleging that a local school department or other public education agency violated a requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Rhode Island Regulations Governing the Education of Children with Disabilities. A state complaint must be submitted in writing and must include certain required elements. The RIDE has a model form that contains all the required elements that must be included in a written state complaint. This form is not required but can assist parties in filing their complaint.


Once a written state complaint is received, the RIDE will carry out an investigation and issue a written Findings Letter within 60 calendar days of receiving the complaint (unless an extension is granted). If the school department or other public educational agency is determined to be in violation of special education laws or regulations, it will be required to develop and implement a corrective action plan. The conclusions and corrective actions stipulated in the Findings Letter represent the final decision of the Rhode Island Department of Education.


Who can submit a Written State Complaint?

Unlike the other IDEA dispute resolution options, a state complaint can be requested by any individual or organization on behalf of a single student, or group of students with a disability.

What issues can be investigated through the State Complaint process?

The RIDE can investigate any allegation(s) of a violation of Federal or State special education laws and regulations. The complaint must allege a violation that occurred not more than one year prior to the date that the complaint is received.

How can a Written State Complaint be requested?

A written state complaint must be submitted in writing to the RIDE and contain all required elements to be accepted. The RIDE developed a model form to assist you in including all required elements of a written complaint:

·RIDE Special Education State Complaint Form in Word

·RIDE Special Education State Complaint Form in PDF


·CADRE IDEA Written State Complaint Parent Guide and companion videos: available in 12 languages.

An impartial due process hearing is an administrative special education proceeding in which the parent and school department present their respective cases to an impartial hearing officer, who makes a decision for the parties, rendered in writing. The hearing officers decision is final unless appealed through civil action in U.S. district court or a state court of competent jurisdiction.

Who can request a Due Process Hearing?

A parent or a public agency may file a due process hearing request.

What issues can be resolved through a Due Process Hearing?

Any matter relating to the identification, evaluation or educational placement of a child with a disability, or the provision of FAPE to the child can be the subject of a due process hearing.

The due process hearing request must allege a violation that occurred not more than two years before the date the parent or public agency knew or should have known about the action that forms the basis of the due process complaint,

How is a Due Process Hearing request submitted?

A request for a special education impartial due process hearing must be submitted in writing to the Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports and contain all required elements. To assist you in filing a request for a special education impartial due process hearing, the RIDE provides the following model form that includes the required elements as well as other helpful information.

To access the model form for requesting an impartial due process hearing click here:

·RIDE Due Process Hearing Request Form in Word

·RIDE Due Process Hearing Request Form in PDF


·CADRE IDEA Due Process Complaints Parent Guide and companion videos: available in 12 languages

·CADRE IDEA Special Education Resolution Meetings Parent Guide and companion videos: available in 12 languages

RIDE provides information to the public regarding Dispute Resolution options exercised in each school district by year.

  • The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education ("CADRE") is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs at the US Department of Education to serve as the National Center on Dispute Resolution in Special Education.  CADRE works to increase the nation's capacity to prevent and resolve special education and early intervention disputes by fostering productive home/school/provider partnerships and the use of collaborative processes to improve outcomes for children and youth with disabilities.  CADRE has a wealth of resources to support families and educators work together and through disagreement. 

    Parent Organizations are available to assist parents with questions and build their knowledge about Special Education and related services. Parents who know their rights can effectively partner with the school team in making educational decisions about their child. The lead parent organizations in Rhode Island are the

    ·Rhode Island Parent Information Network (La Red de Información para Padres de Familia de Rhode Island / RIPIN): 270-0101 800-464-3399, and the

    ·Rhode Island Parent Support Network (Red de Apoyo a Padres de Familia / PSN): 467-6855 1-800-483-8844 /

Related Resources

  • Rhode Island Department of Education Legal Office
  • US Department of Education
  • US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights:

    The regional Civil Rights office serving Rhode Island is:


    Boston Office

    Office for Civil Rights

    U.S. Department of Education

    33 Arch Street, Suite 900

    Boston, MA 02110-1491

    Telephone: 617-289-0111

    FAX: 617-289-0150; TDD: 877-521-2172

    Email: OCR.Boston@ed.gov

    Each public school district assigns an administrator to oversee its system of ensuring general education accommodations for students eligible under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Please contact your local Superintendent's Office to reach the 504 Coordinator for your district.

    Complaints regarding provision of general education accommodations under Section 504 for an eligible student may be directed to the Rhode Island Department of Education's Legal Office.


  • ADA Technical Assistance Centers

    The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) has established ten regional centers to provide information, training, and technical assistance to employers, people with disabilities, and other entities with responsibilities under the ADA. The centers act as a "one-stop" central, comprehensive resource on ADA issues in employment, public services, public accommodations, and communications. Each center works closely with local business, disability, governmental, rehabilitation, and other professional networks to provide ADA information and assistance. For information contact 1-800-949-4232 (V/TTY).

  • Rhode Island Governor's Commission on Disabilities

    The Commission's objective is to ensure that all people with disabilities are afforded the opportunities to exercise all the rights and responsibilities accorded to citizens of this state and each person with a disability is able to reach his/her maximum potential in independence, human development, productivity and self-sufficiency.


    Governor's Commission on Disabilities

    John O. Pastore Center

    41 Cherry Dale Court

    Cranston, RI 02920-3049

    Website: www.disabilities.ri.gov

    (401) 462-0100 TTY 711


Data Visualizations

All data for visualizations provided by the Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE), based on data reported to the US Department of Education by individual states.