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Special Education

There are different ways to prevent and address educational disputes. No single method works best in all situations. However, it is always best to resolve disputes at the earliest stages by those parties who are most involved in a child's educationβ€”namely the child's parents, school staff and area education agency (AEA) staff.

When parents, school staff and AEA staff communicate and work together, usually problems can be worked out and an agreement can be reached that is in the best interest of the child.

Dispute Resolution Summary (April 2024)

Dispute Resolution Process Comparison Table (October 2014) - Lists the ways disputes can be resolved. It is intended to help people resolve differences and come to an agreement that benefits the child. There are unique similarities and differences between the options.

The following narratives provide more information on the ways disputes can be resolved, violations investigated, and decisions made. Options are listed from most parental input and control over the decision to the least control. 

  • AEA mediation process
  • Mediation
  • Due process hearings
  • Formal written complaint
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AEA Mediation Process

AEA Mediator

An AEA mediator may be used to help settle difference between parties. This person may be someone who is considered neutral to the disagreement, from within the AEA, or from another AEA. This person is not assigned by the state, as in the other options. Contact the AEA to inquire about a mediator.

  • AEA Mediator Guide- Guidelines and forms used by AEA Mediators during the mediation process.

Request Form

A parent or school district can fill out a form or call the AEA in which the child attends school to access a resolution facilitator.

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What are the essential features of mediation?

Request Form

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Due Process Hearings

When a due process hearing is requested, many requirements and rights are initiated. This can be stressful process - timelines must be met and attorneys are typically involved. Additionally, a resolution meeting must be offered within 15 days of a request being received by all parties. The following information is intended to help the reader understand this process better.

Model Request Form

The following form is one way to file an official due process hearing request with the state:

Resolution Meeting

A resolution meeting must be held within 15 calendar days of the school district and AEA receiving notice of due process complaint, unless both parents and school waive that right.

If the parents, school district, and AEA agree to hold a resolution meeting, the following form needs to completed:

Tips for a Resolution Meeting

The following materials provide tips for conducting a resolution meeting and includes commonly asked questions:

State Rules

Selected Rules on Due Process Complaints and Due Process Decisions - Contains a section of the Iowa Administrative Rules of Special Education which explains due process hearings according to state law.

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State Complaint

When a parent believes a district or an AEA has violated state rules and wants the State to investigate, a formal written complaint needs to be filed with the Iowa Department of Education.


Complaint Procedures - Explains the complaint process in more detail.

State Rules

IDEA State Complaint Rules - A section of the Iowa Administrative Rules of Special Education explains the complaint process according to state law.

Model Request Format

Since the law clearly states what criteria needs to be present in a written complaint, the material below provides rules for submitting a complaint and a model form that can be completed and submitted by the parent:

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