Filing a State Complaint: How-to and What to Expect

Fact Sheet
Updated: 1 year ago

What is a state complaint?

A state complaint is an administrative process to help resolve violations of the IDEA or state special education rules. A state complaint is not a lawsuit.

Where can I find the form to file a state complaint?

Access the form to file a state complaint.

Who can file a complaint? Can I do that myself?

Yes, you can file a Systemic (issue(s) impacting several individuals) or an Individual complaint.

When should somebody file a state complaint?

You should file a state complaint if you believe that the school (or district) has violated the IDEA or state special education rules. Examples of violations include, but are not limited to:

  • Refusal or improper implementation of accommodations outlined in the IEP
  • Failure to return student to prior placement following manifestation determination
  • A school’s failure to respond to parent request for reevaluation 
  • Improper or excessive use of physical restraint

When did the violations have to occur for a state complaint?

The state will review allegations of violations going back one year for a state complaint. This is different from Due Process, another administrative process available to you (see our Due Process Fact Sheet for more information), which will look back at alleged violations for two years.

What must you include in a state complaint?

  • Statement of Alleged Violation. Included in this section is a description of how the school district/charter school violated Part B of the IDEA or the USBE Special Education Rules. You must describe the violation(s), including the date(s) the violation(s) occurred.
  • Statement of Facts. This section should describe the event(s), date(s), and document(s) that may support your allegations. You may attach any supporting documents to your state complaint prior to submitting it.
  • Proposed Resolution. The state complaint should conclude with a proposed resolution you would like to see implemented upon completion of an investigation following a state complaint. Examples could include: an evaluation by a qualified professional, compensatory education.

What must you include in a state complaint?

You must send a copy of the state complaint to both the State Director of Special Education, whose address can be found at the bottom of the state complaint form, as well as to the district superintendent (or charter school director/principal) for the school the student was attending at the time the event in the complaint occurred. You must fax, mail, or hand-deliver the complaint to both.

What happens after I file a state complaint?

After filing a complaint, the State Education Agency has 60 days to resolve the complaint, unless exceptional circumstances exist. Within these 60 days, the State Education Agency will:

  • Give the individual filing the complaint the opportunity to submit additional information, either orally or in writing, about the allegations in the complaint
  • Provide the public agency of whom the complaint is against the opportunity to respond to the state complaint
  • If necessary, the SEA will conduct an on-site investigation
  • The SEA will review all information and make an independent decision about whether the school violated the IDEA
  • The SEA must issue a written decision that addresses each part of the complaint, the evidence found for or against that complaint, the reason behind the SEA’s final decision, and procedures for effective implementation of the decision.

It is important to be responsive throughout the process and promptly respond to any calls, emails, and/or requests for information by the state investigator. Mediation is another option for resolving an issue involving breach of the IDEA, and schools may seek to resolve the dispute through mediation prior a decision being reached through the state complaint process. Mediation can often be quicker than the state complaint process, lasting only a few hours, and it must be provided at no cost to the parent(s) or adult student. Mediation typically doesn’t involve the use of lawyers, although the decision(s) reached during mediation are legally binding.

What if I disagree with the State Education Agency’s Decision?

In Utah, you cannot appeal the investigator’s decision. However, if you disagree with the decision, you can file a Due Process Complaint. During the complaint process, parties can agree to mediate the dispute. If you have questions about mediation, please contact us.

When will the SEA not review a complaint?

  • If a state complaint and a due process complaint are filed simultaneously to resolve the same issue, the SEA must wait to review that part of the state complaint until the due process hearing is resolved 
  • If an issue has previously been decided in a due process hearing and, at the conclusion of the hearing a state complaint is filed regarding the same issue, the due process decision is binding, and the SEA cannot review the complaint