Summary: Ways to settle a disagreement

You have the right to disagree with many aspects of the evaluation process and the development of the IEP.

For example, you might disagree with:

  • The amount of service the IEP team is suggesting

  • The category of disability the district has identified for your child

  • The amount of progress the school says your child is making

  • The school's finding that your child does not qualify for an IEP or 504 plan

Dispute resolution is a process of resolving disagreements.

The school system has a formal process to go through. This is your legal right.

These are the steps, in order. 1. Meet with the school again. Share your concerns with the school team and try to work together. 2. Request a facilitated IEP. Bring in a neutral facilitator to improve communication between you and the IEP team. 3. ask for mediation. Bring in a neutral mediator who is trained to to help resolve issues between you and the school district. 4. File and informal complaint. 5. File a formal complaint. 6. File for a due process hearing. This is a formal meeting, like a court trial. This should be a last resort!


BSEA stands for the Bureau for Special Education Appeals. This is a state office that conducts mediation, advisory opinions and hearings to resolve disputes about special education. Click here to see the webpage. (It will open in a new tab.)

 We'll walk you through each of these in the next few screens.

The school district should have given you a Notice of Procedural Safeguards, which describes your rights and the process of resolving a disagreement. (Click on the title to open it in a new window.)

What to do as you go through this process:

Keep records of all your communications with the school! Include emails, letters, phone calls, even conversations. Make sure theres a date. This can prove what you have asked for and when. It may help you later on if you have to stick up for your rights. If you want to talk with teacher or someone from the school district and agree on something, follow it up with an email. An example of a follow up email would be "It was nice to talk to you today, Mrs. Smith. Thank you for agreeing to make sure Joe sits at the front of the class. That will help him a lot."

See the next pages to learn about each step in this process.

Sources: Children's Law Center of MA,Collins (2013), MA DESE, Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee