How to Document and Resolve Issues With the IEP Team
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November 2022
Tip: Documenting student/parent concerns and asking for a response from the school/district IN WRITING is key to effective advocacy!

How to Document and Resolve Issues
With the IEP Team

We often help parents and youth learn how to share their concerns in writing about what's happening at school in a way that gets results. While these issues may be discussed in a meeting or a conversation, documenting what's going on is important. A lot of confusion and misunderstanding can be avoided by writing down verbal agreements or documenting action items.

Conversations often happen when staff are busy, people are frustrated, or the student is in crisis. Putting your thoughts on paper allows you to take as long as you need to:

  • state your concerns
  • think over what you've written
  • identify legal and policy issues
  • get someone you trust to read over the letter and make suggestions before you send it

We have many sample letters on the DREDF website to help you get started. Sample Letters and Forms - Disability Rights Education & Defense. But you always want to adjust these based on your or your child's individual  situation and specific concerns. Here are some basic guidelines to use when drafting letters:

  • Never send a letter in anger. It can be helpful to write it to vent but give yourself a cooling-off period to come back to it later. Threats and blaming in letters alienate the person who receives them and can cause the school to feel a need to defend its staff and practices. That can set up an adversarial situation, and problems can escalate rather than get resolved
  • If you have an immediate safety concern, reach out to a special education or school administrator immediately in writing
  • Avoid accusations. Instead, ask questions and refer to your documentation. For example: "I took this picture of my child today at 3:30 when she arrived home on the school bus. Notice the large bump on their forehead. My child is nonverbal and can't tell me how this happened. I have not received an incident report. Where was the assigned aide when this occurred? I'm very concerned about my child's safety, and we need to schedule a meeting to discuss this as soon as possible. Sample Letter - Request for IEP Meeting.  I am also requesting a copy of the incident report"
  • Follow up on important conversations with a confirmation letter. For example: "Thank you for taking time to meet with me about my child's behavior challenges recently. As we discussed, we need to have an IEP meeting within 30 calendar days to discuss whether the current behavior support plan is appropriate and helping my student make progress toward their behavior goals. I look forward to receiving dates to consider ASAP"
  • Write to the correct person and copy the appropriate administrators. You may want to also copy an administrator outside the school—a district 504 coordinator or special education director. For example, "my child tells me they have not gone to speech therapy for several weeks. Since you are their speech therapist, can you help me understand what's going on? Please provide the resource logs documenting sessions provided this year. I am copying the special education director here so everyone has this information. If sessions have been missed, let me know how they will be made up"
  • Deliver your letter in a way that provides proof of delivery. Email is not legal proof of delivery unless the receiver acknowledges it. If you send information this way, ask that the person confirm receipt and if they do not, print or fax the email to have proof of the date and time it was received
  • If the issue is time sensitive, explain why. "Until we can meet to update the IEP to provide appropriate support for their diabetes care, I can't send them back to school for health reasons"
  • Refer to the documentation/examples you are writing about. For example: "Attached is the math homework my child attempted to do last night. He was unable to complete this assignment. He spent two hours trying to complete it. Can you share how long you expect a student in your class to spend on these assignments? I am wondering if he needs more resource support and if you are seeing these challenges in the classroom?"
  • If you are writing to document areas of disagreement for an IEP or 504 plan, state the issues clearly, without hostility. For example: "Although the district is proposing a special day class for my child next year, we do not agree to this change as it is too restrictive, and we need to try less restrictive solutions first. As we discussed in the meeting today, our concerns are…."
  • If you have a solution in mind, include it. "Rather than move my child to a new placement, we ask that the district provide more classroom support with an aide"
  • At the end of your letter, state what action you expect from the district. For example: "Please let me know if you agree to do an assistive technology assessment or send a Prior Written Notice explaining the reasons why you are denying my request so that I can consider the next steps"
  • Don't forget to document positive things, too! Letting a teacher or administrator know about a success helps build a positive relationship so that when disagreements come up, you can work in partnership to resolve them
  • Always keep a copy of everything that you write to the school. Keep a copy for your records and tell them you want the letter put in your child's school records

A resource for examples of parent concerns letters is: How To Write a Parent Concerns Letter for your IEP that Gets Noticed. And if you are concerned or need information or support to identify problems and think about solutions, contact your Parent Training and Information Center.

Special Education Resources

Upcoming Online Training (Using Zoom)

Special Education: IEP Basics & Beyond

Date: Monday, December 12, 2022
Topic: Transition to Adulthood
Time: 7:00 am – 8:30 pm

Registration is required ↓
Registration Link

Interpretation/Accommodations: If you need accommodations to participate in any of our training or presentations, please contact or call 510 644-2555 as soon as possible. We generally need 10 days to arrange these, and we want to make sure you are included!

Note: We offer all our DREDF Special Education training in Spanish and post other training that may be of interest where we are participating but not hosting on our website as well. Visit DREDF's Special Education Trainings page for more information.

Need to talk with an Education Advocate? To contact the PTI, call 510-644-2555, ext. 5227, or email us at The education advocates at DREDF's Parent Training & Information Center (PTI) are available to answer calls and emails though there may be delays due to the needs of staff working from home. Thank you for your understanding!


ADR — Alternative Dispute Resolution. An informal way of settling disagreements directly with the school or district.

FAPE — Free Appropriate Public Education.

IDEA — Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The federal law that creates special education rights for students and youth with disabilities 0-22.

IEP Individualized Educational Program. A legal document that explains how a school will meet the disability-related needs of a student eligible for special education.

LEA — Local Education Agency.  Public Schools including Charter Schools, County Schools

LRE — Least Restrictive Environment. The requirement in federal law that students with disabilities receive their education, to the maximum extent appropriate, with non-disabled students and that special education students are not removed from regular classes unless, even with special education support, education in regular classes doesn't meet their needs.

NOTICE OF PARENT RIGHTS/PROCEDURAL SAFEGUARDS  Important safeguards that protect the rights of parents and disabled students. Also, give families and school systems several mechanisms through which to resolve their disputes. Parental Rights under IDEA summarizes these safeguards.

PTI Parent Training and Information Centers are places families can get free help to understand their student with a disability's education rights and learn to use them effectively.

SELPA Special Education Local Plan Area (CA only)

3075 Adeline Street, Suite 210
Berkeley, CA 94703
510.644.2555 v
510-841-8645 fax
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