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What is a Special Education Compliance Complaint?

Posted by Paul Hefley | Oct 09, 2020 | 0 Comments

What is a Compliance Complaint?

When a school district, charter school, or other local education agency (LEA) violates part or all of a special education law or procedure, parents can file a complaint with the California Department of Education (CDE). These violations include, but are not limited to: 

  1. failure to provide parents with their child's educational records within 5 days of their request;
  2. failure to implement an IEP;
  3. failure to follow timelines for assessment and referral; or
  4. failure to implement a due process hearing decision or mediation agreement.

What Happens After a Compliance Complaint is Filed?

After a compliance complaint has been filed, a CDE official will investigate the allegations made by the student's parents. The investigator will typically speak with the student's parents and school officials to determine whether the allegations are correct. Following the investigation, the CDE will issue a written determination of whether the LEA is, or was, out of compliance with federal and/or California special education law. If the CDE finds that the LEA is out of compliance, CDE will require it to come back into compliance. Additionally, CDE could order the LEA to complete and submit a "corrective action plan." Such a plan typically includes the LEA's proposed actions it has taken, or will take, to ensure that the compliance issue is not repeated in the future. CDE will then accept the LEA's plan or modify it. Finally, CDE will notify parents after the LEA has brought itself back into compliance. 

What's the Difference Between a Compliance Complaint and Due Process Complaint?

A compliance complaint is typically filed when a LEA has not complied with a special education law or procedure.  Conversely, a due process complaint is typically filed when there is a disagreement between parents and the LEA regarding what the IEP should contain (e.g., placement) or where to implement the IEP. A due process is filed with the California Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). If there is a mixture of procedural shortfalls and substantive failures, a due process complaint is appropriate. 

What is the Timeline to File a Compliance Complaint?

Parents must submit their complaint no later than one year after the alleged violation occurred. (Cal. Ed. Code Section 56200.2(b))

Have Questions?

Should you have questions about your situation and whether either a compliance complaint or due process complaint is warranted, please feel free to contact the law office to speak with an experienced San Diego special education attorney.

About the Author

Paul Hefley

Paul is an experienced litigator and trial attorney. He has litigated special education cases in the California Office of Administrative Hearings, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.


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