Chapter 5.12: State Complaint Procedures

    State Performance Plan (SPP):

    (See Overview in the Introduction for more information on the SPP.)

    SPP 16:
    Percent of signed written complaints with reports issued that were resolved within 60-day timeline or a timeline extended for exceptional circumstances with respect to a particular complaint. (20 U.S.C. 1416(a)(3)(B))

    Intent:

    To provide parents, organizations and other individuals a mechanism for the prompt resolution of complaints through the state educational agency (SEA), while ensuring that the educational needs of a child with a disability are met.

    Required Timelines:

    Not more than one year prior to the date the complaint is received

    The complaint must allege a violation that occurred not more than one year prior to the date that the complaint is received.

    Sixty days after a complaint is filed

    The Ohio Department of Education shall include in its complaint procedures a time limit of 60 days after a complaint is filed to issue a written decision (Letter of Findings).

    Extension of 60-day time limit

    The Ohio Department of Education also shall permit an extension of the 60-day time limit only if exceptional circumstances exist with respect to a particular complaint. If parties to a state complaint agree to mediation, both parties must also agree to the extension of the 60-day timeline for the completion of the complaint, if an extension is requested.
     

    REQUIREMENT

    3301-51-05
    (K) Conflict Resolution
    (4) Adoption of state complaint procedures
    (a) General
    The Ohio Department of Education shall adopt written procedures for:

    (i) Resolving any complaint, including a complaint filed by an organization or individual from another state, that meets the requirements of paragraph (K)(6) of this rule by:
    (a) Providing for the filing of a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education; and
    (b) At the Ohio Department of Education’s discretion, providing for the filing of a complaint with a school district of residence and the right to have the Ohio Department of Education review the school district of residence’s decision on the complaint; and
    (ii) Widely disseminating to parents and other interested individuals, including parent training and information centers, protection and advocacy agencies, independent living centers, and other appropriate entities, the state procedures under paragraphs (K)(4) to (K)(6) of this rule.

     

    (b) Remedies for denial of appropriate services
    In resolving a complaint in which the Ohio Department of Education has found a failure to provide services, the Ohio Department of Education, pursuant to its general supervisory authority under Part B of the IDEA, must address:

    (i) The failure to provide appropriate services, including corrective action appropriate to address the needs of the child (such as compensatory services or monetary reimbursement); and
    (ii) Appropriate future provision of services for all children with disabilities.

    GUIDANCE

    A brief overview of State Complaint Procedures is described in the chart "Conflict Resolution Processes."

    Written complaint procedures

    The Ohio Department of Education’s (ODE’s) complaint procedures are included in:

    This documents is posted on the ODE's Web site at http://education.ohio.gov, keyword search: Whose Idea.

    ODE's Office for Exceptional Children (ODE/OEC) does not review decisions that are made by a district of residence when a complaint is submitted directly to the school district. This is an optional procedure for states to implement, and Ohio has chosen not to do so; nor does the Office for Exceptional Children investigate complaints on which they receive a courtesy copy.

    The ODE/OEC is responsible for investigating complaints regarding preschool, elementary and secondary school-age children (3 through 21 years).

    The school district of residence ensures that parents of children with disabilities or suspected disabilities are informed of the state complaint procedures by providing them with a copy of Whose IDEA Is This? (the procedural safeguards notice) at least once a year. The district may also post Whose IDEA Is This? on its Web site.

    Parents of children with disabilities in nonpublic schools

    A nonpublic school official has the right to submit a complaint to the ODE/OEC regarding the consultation process with the public school. Parents who have unilaterally placed a child with disabilities in a nonpublic school and whose child is receiving services under a services plan have the right to file a state complaint regarding the provision of services, under that plan, and regarding additional issues as identified in rule 3301-51-08(L)(3) of the Administrative Code. Refer to Guidelines for Providing Services to Children with Disabilities Parentally Placed in Ohio Chartered and Nonchartered, Nonpublic Schools, Revised April 15, 2009.

    REQUIREMENT

    3301-51-05
    (K) Conflict Resolution
    (6) Filing a complaint

    (a) An organization or individual may file a signed written complaint under the procedures described in paragraphs (K)(4) to (K)(5) of this rule.
    (b) The complaint must include:
    (i) A statement that a school district of residence has violated a requirement of Part B of the IDEA or of this rule;
    (ii) The facts on which the statement is based;
    (iii)The signature and contact information for the complainant; and
    (iv) If alleging violations with respect to a specific child:
    (a) The name and address of the residence of the child;
    (b) The name of the school the child is attending;
    (c) In the case of a homeless child or youth (within the meaning of Section 725(2) of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 11434a (2), as amended and specified in Title X, Part C, of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, January 2002, 42 U.S.C. 11431), available contact information for the child, and the name of the school the child is attending;
    (d) A description of the nature of the problem of the child, including facts relating to the problem; and
    (e) A proposed resolution of the problem to the extent known and available to the party at the time the complaint is filed.
    (c) The complaint must allege a violation that occurred not more than one year prior to the date that the complaint is received in accordance with paragraph (K)(4) of this rule.
    (d) The party filing the complaint must forward a copy of the complaint to the school district of residence at the same time the party files the complaint with the Ohio Department of Education.


     

    GUIDANCE

    Definition: homeless children and youth

    The McKinney-Vento Act defines "homeless children and youth" as individuals who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. The term includes children and youth who are:

    • Sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason (sometimes referred to as doubled-up);
    • Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations;
    • Living in emergency or transitional shelters;
    • Abandoned in hospitals; or
    • Awaiting foster care placement;
    • And who:
      • Have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
      • Are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and
      • Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are living in circumstances described above.

    Filing a complaint

    A signed (original signature) written complaint may be filed by any party, including but not limited to, a parent, a child who has reached the age of majority, an organization or a third party. Also, an individual or an organization from another state may file a complaint. A complaint may allege violations regarding a specific child or a group of children (a systemic complaint).

    • The complaint must include an original signature, that is, a signature signed with a pen. Electronic signatures will not be accepted.

    The complaint is limited to an alleged violation that occurred no more than one year prior to the date that the complaint is received. This helps ensure that problems are raised and addressed promptly.

    A complaint, including a preschool complaint, must be filed with the ODE/OEC). ODE/OEC will not accept:

    • Faxed complaints;
    • Complaints sent via e-mail; or
    • Anonymous complaints.

    The ODE/OEC has developed a model complaint form (optional) to assist parties in filing a complaint that is sufficient; that is, one that includes the information required by the procedural safeguards rule 3301-51-05 of the Administrative Code and stated above. The ODE/OEC will determine whether a complaint is sufficient. A detailed discussion of "sufficiency" and procedures related to a complaint that is deemed "insufficient" are included in Whose IDEA Is This?.

    The ODE/OEC also will determine whether the issues in the original complaint will be investigated and, if they are to be investigated, which law allegedly has been violated.

    If a complaint is filed against a school district alleging the school district has violated a requirement of federal and/or state laws and regulations not under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), Ohio’s special education law, or Operating Standards for Ohio Educational Agencies Serving Children with Disabilities, the ODE/OEC will not investigate. The ODE/OEC will acknowledge receipt of the complaint and inform the complainant how to contact the office, department, or agency that has jurisdiction over the issue.

    REQUIREMENT

    3301-51-05
    (K) Conflict Resolution
    (5) Minimum state complaint procedures
    (a) Time limit; minimum procedures
    The Ohio Department of Education shall include in its complaint procedures a time limit of sixty days after a complaint is filed under paragraph (K)(6) of this rule to:

    (i) Carry out an independent on-site investigation, if the Ohio Department of Education determines that an investigation is necessary;
    (ii) Give the complainant the opportunity to submit additional information, either orally or in writing, about the allegations in the complaint;
    (iii) Provide the school district of residence with the opportunity to respond to the complaint, including at a minimum:
    (a) At the discretion of the school district of residence, a proposal to resolve the complaint; and
    (b) An opportunity for a parent who has filed a complaint and the school district of residence to voluntarily engage in mediation consistent with paragraph (K)(3) of this rule;
    (iv) Review all relevant information and make an independent determination as to whether the school district is violating a requirement of Part B of the IDEA or of this rule: and
    (v) Issue a written decision to the complainant that addresses each allegation in the complaint and contains:
    (a) Findings of fact and conclusions; and
    (b) The reasons for the Ohio Department of Education’s final decision.

    GUIDANCE

    Letter of complaint

    If a complaint is filed against the school district of residence, the complainant is required to send the original copy of the complaint to the ODE/OEC and forward a copy to the superintendent of the school district of residence.

    Upon receiving a complaint, school district personnel should immediately:

    • Time-stamp the complaint;
    • Forward a copy of the complaint to the school administrator who is responsible for special education services and request that he or she review the complaint; and
    • Forward a copy of the complaint to the school district’s legal counsel. (Optional)

    There is no requirement that the school district be represented by legal counsel during a complaint investigation; however, depending on the specific situation and the allegations being made, the district may choose to seek advice from its attorney.

    Letter of acknowledgment

    Within five business days of when the ODE/OEC receives the written, signed complaint, it will send an acknowledgment letter to the person filing the complaint and the superintendent of the school district and a copy to the director of special education. The ODE/OEC will also send the letter to the following parties, if different from the person filing the complaint:

    • The parent/guardian of the child, and
    • The child, if the child has reached the age of 18.

    An acknowledgment letter is only sent when a complaint is found to be sufficient and will include the following information:

    • Notice of the date that the ODE/OEC received the complaint;
    • A copy of the original complaint;
    • Identification of contact information for the assigned educational consultant who will investigate the complaint;
    • Notice of an opportunity for the parties or, as appropriate, a third party complainant to provide additional information;
    • Notice that a "letter of findings" will be issued within 60 calendar days of the date ODE/OEC receives the complaint, unless an extension is granted, in which case the letter of findings will be issued on the date named in the extension letter;
    • Notice if the complaint is “held in abeyance” (put on hold) awaiting the results of a due process hearing. In this case, the 60-day timeline will begin (a) upon the date that the hearing officer issues his or her decision and the ODE/OEC determines that the hearing officer’s decision does not address all of the complaint issues; or (b) upon withdrawal or dismissal of the due process request;and
    • Notice of the opportunity for the parties to engage in mediation of the complaint and information about mediation.

    If legal counsel represents either party, it will be each party’s counsel’s responsibility to communicate with the educational consultant and request that copies of all correspondence be forwarded to legal counsel.

    The superintendent or his or her designee meets with the administrator responsible for special education, other appropriate staff and their legal counsel (optional) to review the complaint and possible options available for resolving the complaint at the local level:

    • Contact the complainant and express the district’s desire to resolve the issues at the local level if they have not already attempted to do so;
    • Consider the resolution proposed by the complainant in the filed complaint;
    • Engage in a facilitated IEP meeting with the parents provided through the ODE/OEC. (This is voluntary and must be mutually agreed upon by both parties. See Procedural Safeguards - 5.9 Conflict Resolution for additional information); and
    • Engage in mediation with the parents provided through the ODE/OEC. (This is voluntary and must be mutually agreed upon by both parties. See Procedural Safeguards - 5.11 Mediation for additional information)

    Letter of allegation

    The superintendent and special education director will receive a letter of allegations from the ODE/OEC that identifies the issues alleged in the complaint letter and outlines the documentation the district must provide in order to assist the ODE/OEC in determining compliance or noncompliance. This letter will specify the date by which all documentation must be submitted to the ODE/OEC.

    A copy of this letter is sent to the parents and the child, if the child has reached the age of majority (18 years), as well as to a third-party complainant, if applicable. They also may provide any relevant documentation by the due date stated in the letter of allegation. Depending on the issues identified in the complaint, school district personnel may suggest resolving the issues by scheduling:

    • A meeting to discuss the issues;
    • An IEP meeting;
    • A facilitated IEP meeting provided through the ODE/OEC; or
    • Mediation provided through the ODE/OEC.

    School district personnel prepare the required documentation and forward it to the ODE/OEC by the due date stated in the letter of allegation. School district personnel should include a narrative response to the allegations along with documentation which supports the narrative response.

    If the consultant assigned to investigate the complaint determines that an on-site investigation is needed to resolve the complaint, the school district assigns an individual to serve as the contact person for facilitating the on-site investigation, so the alleged violations can be addressed promptly.

    REQUIREMENT

    3301-51-05
    (K) Conflict Resolution
    (5) Minimum state complaint procedures (continued)
    (b) Time extension; final decision; implementation
    The Ohio Department of Education’s procedures described in paragraph (K)(5)(a) of this rule also shall:

    (i) Permit an extension of the time limit under paragraph (K)(5)(a) of this rule only if:
    (a) Exceptional circumstances exist with respect to a particular complaint; or
    (b) The parent and the school district of residence involved agree to extend the time to engage in mediation pursuant to paragraph (K)(5)(a)(iii)(b) of this rule, or to engage in other alternative means of dispute resolution, including, but not limited to, an administrative review; and
    (ii) Include procedures for effective implementation of the Ohio Department of Education’s final decision, if needed, including:
    (a) Technical assistance activities;
    (b) Negotiations; and
    (c) Corrective actions to achieve compliance.

    GUIDANCE

    Extension of 60-day timeline

    The ODE is required to issue its letter of findings within 60 days after the receipt of a complaint. There are only two valid reasons for extending the 60-day timeline.

    (1) Exceptional circumstances exist with respect to a particular complaint; or
    (2) Both parties agree to extend to engage in mediation, a facilitated IEP meeting, or other alternative means of dispute resolution.
    ODE/OEC does offer mediation, even if a third party is the complainant. However, the mediation is offered to the parents and the school district of residence. If the parents and the school district mutually agree to mediation, the parents or the school district may invite the third-party complainant. If the mediation results in a written and signed agreement, the complaint is withdrawn even if the third-party complainant did not participate in the mediation.

    What are exceptional circumstances?

    Unanticipated events that close the schools, such as natural disasters; medical or other emergencies affecting the parent or district or ODE/OEC personnel whose participation is needed to complete the investigation; or a complaint that is unusual in terms of the number and complexity of the issues involved.

    What are not exceptional circumstances? Regularly scheduled school breaks and holidays; summer vacation if an extension could deny a child a FAPE or if the complaint involves ESY services; or attorney, staff or parent schedule conflicts.

    Please Note: Both parties agreeing that they would like more time is not a valid reason for the ODE/OEC to grant an extension of the 60 day timeline.

    If the timeline is extended, the ODE/OEC will send a letter of extension to both parties and specify a revised date on which the letter of findings will be issued. If an extension is made for exceptional circumstances, the letter will include the basis for the extension and the timeline will be extended for the minimum time necessary to overcome the exceptional circumstance.

    If the school district and the parents or other party filing the complaint resolves the issues at the local level, the complainant withdraws the complaint, the ODE/OEC sends a “closure letter” to both parties, and no further action is needed by the school district.

    Final decision - letter of findings

    The ODE/OEC will issue a letter of findings by the 60th day unless the timeline has been extended. The letter of findings states the facts regarding the alleged issue and the determination of whether the school district violated a requirement of federal and/or state laws and regulations. If the district is determined to have violated a requirement, an appropriate corrective action (an action related to the violated requirement) is assigned.

    • The letter of findings is sent simultaneously to the parents, the child who has reached the age of majority, and the district superintendent and a director of special education.
    • If a third party filed the complaint, the third party complainant will receive a letter informing the party that ODE/OEC has concluded its complaint investigation. Personally identifiable information about the child may be released to a third party complainant or other person or entity only with the written consent of the parents or as authorized by IDEA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) or state law.

    If the school district of residence is found in noncompliance, the school district, immediately upon receipt of the letter of findings, proceeds to implement the corrective actions and submits the required documentation to the ODE/OEC by the due dates specified in the letter of findings.

    The school district will complete the corrective action within one year of the date of the letter of findings. Once the corrective action is resolved to the satisfaction of the ODE, it will close the complaint.

    If the district does not comply with the complaint process or the corrective action, appropriate sanctions will be implemented by the ODE/OEC.

    If the school district or complainant does not agree with the ODE’s decision issued in the letter of findings, the school district or a parent who is the complainant may initiate a due process hearing, provided that the subject of the State-level complaint involves an issue about which a due process hearing can be filed, and that the two-year statute of limitations for due process complaints has not expired (Federal Register, August 14, 2006, pg, 46607).

    Further Inquiry

    ODE/OEC will issue a Letter of findings outlining the corrective action required by the district to address any non-compliant behavior, as well as whether the district will be involved in any further inquiry activity.

    • In further inquiry, the ODE/OEC sends a separate letter to the district regarding the possible areas of noncompliance. The further inquiry could include a request for additional records or information or it could include scheduling an on-site visit by ODE/OEC staff members. The complainant is not notified of any further inquiries unless the complainant files a public records request.
    • If the ODE/OEC finds evidence of a possible additional area of noncompliance, the educational consultant assigned to the complaint will contact the district to discuss the technical assistance the ODE/OEC will provide. This assistance will be in addition to the formal complaint investigation.
    • If the ODE/OEC determines that the district is out of compliance in an additional area that was not alleged in the original complaint, the ODE/OEC will provide the district with technical assistance until the noncompliant area has been corrected.

    Remedies for denial of appropriate services

    ODE, through its general supervisory authority under IDEA, Part B will provide remedies for denial of appropriate services which shall include:

    • Corrective action appropriate to address the individual needs of the child, including compensatory services or monetary reimbursement; and
    • Appropriate future provision of services for all children with disabilities within the school district that is the subject of the complaint.

    REQUIREMENT

    3301-51-05
    (K) Conflict Resolution
    (5) Minimum state complaint procedures (continued)
    (c) Complaints and due process hearings filed under this rule

    (i) If a written complaint is received that is also the subject of a due process hearing under this rule, or contains multiple issues of which one or more are part of that hearing, the Ohio Department of Education shall set aside any part of the complaint that is being addressed in the due process hearing until the conclusion of the hearing. However, any issue in the complaint that is not a part of the due process action must be resolved using the time limit and procedures described in paragraphs (K)(5)(a) and (K)(5)(b) of this rule.
    (ii) If an issue raised in a complaint filed under this rule has previously been decided in a due process hearing involving the same parties:
    (a) The due process hearing decision is binding on that issue; and
    (b) The Ohio Department of Education shall inform the complainant to that effect.
    (iii) A complaint alleging a school district of residence’s failure to implement a due process hearing decision shall be resolved by the Ohio Department of Education.

    GUIDANCE

    Complaints and due process hearings filed under minimum state complaint procedures

    The school district of residence simultaneously may have a request for a due process hearing and a state complaint regarding the same child filed against it. Though these processes may address different issues, the superintendent or his or her designee assigns a staff member to be the contact person for both the due process hearing and the state complaint, to assure that efforts to provide information are not being duplicated by the staff.

    • As required by Operating Standards for Ohio Educational Agencies Serving Children with Disabilities, the ODE/OEC holds complaint issues that are part of the due process hearing in abeyance until the hearing officer issues a decision or the hearing is withdrawn or dismissed.
    • The ODE/OEC sends a "letter of abeyance" to the parties involved in the state complaint and the due process complaint, stating that since the issues are the same the complaint issues will be held and not investigated until the resolution of the due process hearing. When the due process hearing officer issues a decision, or when the hearing is withdrawn or dismissed, the ODE/OEC reviews the complaint issues. If there are issues that were not addressed in the hearing process, those issues will be investigated within a 60-day timeline, beginning on the date the hearing officer issues a final decision or the due process request is withdrawn or dismissed.

     

Last Modified: 7/11/2013 4:02:18 PM