This document explains how to file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) about possible violations of special education laws or rules. The complaint system is free and can be an alternative to a due process hearing. The intention of this document is to provide helpful, general information to the public. It does not constitute legal advice nor is it a substitute for consulting with a licensed attorney. The information below should not be relied upon as a comprehensive or definitive response to your specific legal situation. This document may not include a complete rendition of applicable state and federal law.
Before filing a complaint, MDE encourages parents or other persons to first contact the school district’s director of special education, who may be able to help resolve the issue. View the Special Education Directors List.
Anyone, including an organization, may file a special education complaint with MDE.
A complaint can be filed about any entity that provides publicly funded educational services directly to children, that has allegedly violated a state or federal special education law or rule within one year of the date the complaint is received by MDE. If you are not sure if your concern is appropriate, you can contact an advocacy organization or MDE for help in deciding if you should file a complaint. Access a list of advocacy organizations at the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities website.
The special education complaint system is designed to ensure that all children with disabilities are provided a free appropriate public education. The following are examples of the types of issues that MDE has addressed through the complaint system:
Send a signed, written statement that includes specific facts supporting the claim that an education agency has violated a requirement of state or federal special education laws or rules along with a proposed resolution to the alleged violation. Include in your written statement: your address and phone number, the name and address of the child, and the name and address of the school the child is attending. You must also send a copy of your complaint to the school district.
Send the written complaint by fax (651.582.8725), by mail, or deliver in person to: Dispute Resolution Supervisor, Minnesota Department of Education, Division of Compliance and Assistance, 1500 Highway 36 West, Roseville, MN 55113-4266.
MDE has 60 days to resolve the complaint. This timeline starts the day MDE receives the written letter of complaint. Under exceptional circumstances, MDE may extend this 60-day timeline. The 60-day timeline may also be extended if the parties agree to voluntarily participate in mediation or other alternative means of dispute resolution.
MDE writes a final decision and sends a copy to the person who filed the complaint and to the education agency. The final decision is in effect and binding when issued.
If MDE finds no violations after investigating, the file is closed when the final written decision is issued.
If the education agency committed violations that require corrective action, MDE develops a corrective action plan, which is written into the final decision. Corrective action addresses any harm to the child by providing additional programming or other compensatory education. Corrective action also addresses any district noncompliance, for example, by requiring staff training. The responsible education agency must complete the corrective action within the stated time period. MDE follows up with the education agency and with the person who sent the letter to make sure the corrective action is completed. If the education agency fails to complete the corrective action, MDE will take action to ensure the matter is resolved.
A parent who has been injured-in-fact or a school district that has been injured-in-fact may appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals within 60 days of receiving notice of the final decision.
Yes. MDE must continue to investigate the complaint unless both you and the education agency agree to extend the deadline for the complaint so that you can participate in mediation.
For more information, you may call MDE at 651-582-8689 or go to the Minnesota Department of Education, Division of Compliance and Assistance web page.