BUREAU OF SPECIAL EDUCATION
Division of Compliance Complaints
Questions and Answers
The Bureau of Special Education (Bureau) investigates complaints regarding the implementation of federal and state special education laws. The Bureau receives questions from the public about the process that the Bureau follows to investigate complaints. This document will address the most frequently asked questions. This document is available in Spanish.
1. WHAT IS A DIVISION OF COMPLIANCE (DOC) COMPLAINT?
A Division of Compliance (DOC) complaint is different from a Due Process (DP) complaint. A DOC complaint should be filed if you believe the school is not following your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) , or the school is not following the laws, or required timelines. Anyone including advocates and advocacy organizations can also file DOC complaints about individual, district twide, or statewide problems. A DP complaint is different and should be filed for problems that may be as follows:
A. The school’s decision that the child is (or is not) eligible for special education, unless the school did not follow the correct process.
B. The amount or type of services the school offers in an IEP.
C. The placement the school offers to a child.
For example: If you believe your child needs one hour a week of physical therapy, but the school is only offering an IEP with one hour a month, this is not an issue for a DOC complaint. Why? DOC does not have the authority to determine if an IEP (about placement) is appropriate. In this case, you may request IEP facilitation, mediation, or a Due Process Hearing to settle this question. For information on any of those, please contact the Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR) at 1-800-222-3353.
2. CAN I FILE A DOC COMPLAINT AND A DP COMPLAINT?
If you have filed a DOC complaint with the Bureau, and have also filed a DP complaint, the Bureau will investigate only those issues that are not raised in the DP complaint.
For example: If a DOC complaint and a DP complaint are filed about the same issue(s), the complaint will go through the DP procedures. But, if a DOC complaint and a DP complaint are filed and the issues are not the same, then the Bureau will investigate the issues not addressed in the DP complaint.
3. IS THERE A TIME LIMIT FOR FILING A DOC COMPLAINT?
The Bureau can only investigate issues that happened within the past calendar year.
For example: If it is December 2, 2006 , you can only file a complaint about things that happened after December 2, 2005 .
4. WHO CAN I CALL IF I HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT A DOC COMPLAINT?
Parents may call the Special Education ConsultLine at 1-800-879-2301, if they have questions about special education law or the IEP process. If you call from outside Pennsylvania , dial 717-541-4960 ext. 3332. The ConsultLine helps parents who have questions or may want to file DOC complaints. ConsultLine may refer the parent to outside agencies for more help. You may also contact the Bureau of Special Education directly at 717-783-6913.
5. HOW DO I FILE A DOC COMPLAINT?
To file a DOC complaint, you can fill out the “Complaint Form” that is found at the following website:
You can also file a complaint by sending a letter to DOC. Your letter must include the following (A–G):
A. The child’s name, school, and address (or contact information if the child is homeless);
B. A statement that the school (or the state) has broken a special education law.
For example: “The school has not followed the law because it took more than 60 school days to evaluate my child” or “I believe the school broke the law because it isn’t giving my child the two hours of speech therapy a week that is written in the IEP.”
C. Please give any facts you know about the problem.
For example: “The speech therapist quit in September and my child has not had any therapy since then, even though it is written in the IEP.”
D. A proposed solution to the problem (if you can think of one). If you want the school to make up for services the child missed, you should ask for “compensatory education services.” Or, you may want to ask the school to reimburse you (pay you back) for services you think the school should have provided.
For example: “I would like DOC to make the school hire a new speech therapist immediately, and I want compensatory education services for the speech therapy that my child missed.”
E. Include your contact information and signature.
F. You should attach copies of any papers that help explain your problem, such as a copy of your child’s IEP, to the DOC complaint form or letter.
G. You must also send a copy of the complaint to the school district.
H. The Bureau must complete the process and issue a Complaint Investigation Report (CIR) within 60 calendar days of receiving a signed, completed complaint. If any information is missing from your complaint, the Bureau will contact you asking you to provide that information. The 60-day timeline will not begin until all the information has been provided.
For example: A parent files a complaint, but did not include one of the above items (A-G). The Bureau will send the parent a letter with the needed information highlighted. The 60-day timeline will not begin until the Bureau receives the missing information from the parent. If the Bureau does not receive the information from the parent, the complaint will be dismissed. The parent could file a new complaint if that happened.
6. WHERE DO I SEND A DOC COMPLAINT?
DOC complaints should be sent to:
Pennsylvania Department of Education
Bureau of Special Education
Division of Compliance Monitoring and Planning
333 Market Street , 7 th Floor
Harrisburg , PA 17126-0333
7. WHAT DOES THE BUREAU DO WHEN A COMPLAINT IS FILED?
The complaint is assigned to a Special Education Adviser who will identify/clarify the issues, do an investigation, and send a report within 60 calendar days.
A. The Adviser will contact you by phone to make sure that he or she understands your concerns. If you wish, you may meet with the Adviser in person at a public location during normal business hours.
B. The Bureau will send you an “Acknowledgement Letter” setting out our understanding of your concerns – if the letter shows that we don’t understand the problem correctly contact us immediately to explain things further. The issues in this letter will serve as the basis for our investigation, and we want to get it right. You may provide additional information either verbally or in writing any time before the final report is finished.
C. The Adviser will ask you for the names of others who may have knowledge of important facts and will interview a reasonable number of the persons you name before issuing the report. If some people are more important to the investigation than others, point this out to the Adviser.
D. If the issues you raise in your complaint are not within the Bureau’s power to investigate, we will send you a letter explaining this and giving you information about other agencies that may be able to help.
E. The next step of the investigation, the Adviser will go to the agency to review relevant records and to interview staff.
F. The Bureau will issue a written report, called a Complaint Investigation Report (CIR), within the 60-calendar-day period. The CIR will explain the issues, set out the legal requirements, and make findings. The CIR will explain whether any violation has been found, and if so, will set out the action the agency must take to fix the problem with appropriate timelines (this part of the CIR is called “corrective action”).
8. WHAT IF WE DISAGREE WITH THE CIR?
If either the person who filed the complaint or the agency believes the decision is wrong, or that there is new information that would change the Bureau’s decision or the corrective action, the parent or agency may ask the Bureau to reconsider its decision. The Bureau must receive the request for reconsideration no later than 10 calendar days after the date of the CIR.
Remember, the time starts from the date listed on the CIR – not from when you receive the CIR. If you have not filed a valid request, unless the Bureau receives it before the 10-calendar day period is over – it’s not enough to post the letter within the 10 days. You can fax the letter to the Bureau at 717-783-6139. The Bureau’s Division Chief will review the request and decide whether or not to change the report.
9. ARE THERE OTHER WAYS TO END AN INVESTIGATION?
A. While the Complaint is being investigated, the agency and the person who filed the complaint can agree voluntarily to fix the problem. If that happens, the agency must tell the Bureau about the agreement in a letter that is also signed by the complaining party. When this happens, the Bureau will send a Report of Complaint Resolution Letter to the parties to be completed and returned. The Adviser will not continue to investigate the complaint.
B. The person who filed the complaint and the agency can also agree to mediate the dispute. An agreement to mediate does not automatically extend the Bureau’s timeline for conducting the investigation and issuing the CIR, but the parties can voluntarily agree to extend the timeline. You can learn more about mediation at: http://odr.pattan.net/mediation/default.aspx
C. At any time, the complainant can send the Bureau a letter withdrawing the complaint, and the Bureau will confirm in writing that it has received the letter and that it is closing the investigation.
10. WHERE CAN I FIND THE FEDERAL AND STATE LAWS FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION?
A. The new federal regulations may be found on the PaTTAN website: http://www.pattan.k12.pa.us/regsforms/IDEA2004.aspx
B. The state regulations may also be found on the PaTTAN website: http://www.pattan.k12.pa.us/regsforms/Chapter14(SchoolDistricts).aspx