A formal complaint is a written signed complaint alleging the violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) procedures. Any organization or individual may file a signed written complaint. The complaint must include:
- A statement that a public agency has violated a requirement of the IDEA; and the facts on which the statement is based.
- In addition, suggested resolutions to the problem are requested
- The violation must have occurred within one calendar year of receipt of the complaint.
The rule for formal complaints can be found in the State Education Rules at 160-4-7-.12 Dispute Resolution.
Procedures for Filing a Complaint
- Formal complaints are filed in writing and sent to the local system and the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), Division for Special Education Services (DSES.) The form found below may be used to submit a complaint. Supporting documentation should be provided if available.
Formal Complaints Form
- Upon receipt of the written complaint, the school system must contact you to propose a resolution to the complaint.
- Once this complaint is received by the GaDOE, a team will determine that the allegation(s) can be investigated and begin its investigation as appropriate. Once the complaint is received by the local system, they will contact you to present a proposal to try to resolve the complaint. If you accept their proposal to resolve the complaint, the GaDOE will discontinue the investigation. If you do not reach an agreement, the investigation will continue.
- In addition to the system having the opportunity to present a proposal, you have available to you the mediation process. Mediation is also available to you at no cost. Mediation is a nonadversarial process conducted by a qualified and impartial mediator who is trained in effective mediation techniques to resolve disputes. If you choose to participate in the mediation process, your complaint investigation may still proceed. The timeline for the complaint may be extended if you and the system agree to partake in mediation. If you reach an agreement in mediation, a written agreement will be developed and implemented. Mediation is legally binding in a State or District court. If you reach agreement, the complaint will be closed. If agreement is not reached, the complaint investigation will continue and a decision of compliance made by the GaDOE.
- Upon receipt of the first written complaint, the LEA will provide a copy of procedural safeguards to the parents a child with a disability.
- If you indicated on the complaint form that you are interested in mediation, and the local agency agrees to participate in mediation, then the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) will assign a mediator. Mediation is an option among members of the Individualized Education Program Team.
- The school system must respond to the DSES within ten days of receiving the notification and also send a copy to the person filing the complaint.
- The DSES will conduct an investigation to confirm details and to get clarification of the issues.
- The investigation may include interviews with the parties, observations, on site visits and other activities as indicated by the nature of the allegation.
- The DSES will give the complainant the opportunity to submit additional information in writing about the allegations of the complaint once they have seen the response from the school system.
- If you and the local system reach an agreement and resolve the complaint before the GaDOE investigation is complete, the complaint will be closed without making a determination regarding compliance.
- If you and the system go to mediation and reach agreement, then the complaint will be closed without a decision regarding compliance.
- If you and the system go to mediation and do not reach an agreement, then the complaint investigation will continue.
- Within 60 days of the receipt of the complaint, the DSES will issue a written decision to the complainant that addresses each allegation in the complaint and contains findings of fact and determinations of compliance or noncompliance. The timeline may be extended to accommodate for mediation or other exceptional circumstances with respect to a particular complaint.
- If there is a violation of the law or regulations, then a resolution will be required. The resolution may include technical assistance activities and corrective actions to achieve compliance.
- The party filing the complaint must forward a copy of the complaint to the local education agency or public agency serving the child at the same time the party files the complaint with the state education agency.
Why File a Complaint
Filing a formal complaint will give you the opportunity to express your concerns regarding possible IDEA violations. The DSES will review your complaint and will assist the parties in coming to a resolution. The process is simple and user friendly. Most individuals who file a complaint are not represented by legal counsel.