What can be done to work through the issues when disagreements arise over an Individual Education Program (IEP) to bring about resolution and maintain positive relationships between families and schools?  There are steps that can be taken to resolve the issue informally and formally.

informal dispute resolution

When there are disputes about an IEP and parents wish to try to resolve the issue in an informal manner, we suggest taking the approach of “going up the ladder”.  This means begin by trying to resolve the issue at the building level if possible and then go up the chain of command as needed.  Contacting individuals can be done in person, by phone, email or regular mail.  We recommend parents document the steps they have taken and the outcomes.  It is also important to save copies of written contacts and emails in order to have an accurate record of events.  Steps to “going up the ladder”:  


  • Contact school personnel – teachers, assistant principal, principal

  • Contact district Special Education Coordinator/Assistant Director

  • Contact district Special Education Director

  • Contact the district Superintendent


Parents are not required to use the school or district informal procedures to resolve disputes and may go directly to the formal process.

formal dispute resolution

  • Mediation – A neutral third party (a trained mediator) works with both sides to help reach an agreement.

  • State Complaint -- Filing a complaint with the Colorado Department of Education for violations of the IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act).  The Colorado Department of Education may conduct an investigation to decide if a violation has occurred.

  • Due Process – This legal process involves an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who conducts a hearing, much like a formal court proceeding. The ALJ considers the information and testimony offered by each side and issues a written decision.  Parents can decide to go through Due Process by themselves; however, it is advisable that an attorney be retained.

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