Since shortly after schools closed in April for COVID-19, The Arc TN has been hosting weekly Facebook Live Q&A Sessions with the Tennessee Department of Education to ask questions for families involved in Special Education. These are uncertain times, and the guidance is often changing daily. To stay up to date, follow The Arc Tennessee and The Family Engagement Project on Facebook.

In the live event on June 10th, we were able to have Rachel Suppe who is the legal counsel for the Department’s Special Populations Division. So, she really knows her stuff when it comes to legal matters and IDEA in our public schools. One of the questions she answered was so helpful, we thought it would make sense to create our own resource out of her response so that families can refer back to this if needed. The question was:

What are the concrete steps parents can take to elevate an issue with FAPE (or others)? 

Note: there is no required order for these steps; a parent can take any approach they prefer. But this is a good recommendation for the order you could try. Be sure to keep things in writing whenever possible.
    • Address the issue with your child’s teacher 
    • Request a meeting of the IEP team to address the issue
    • Contact the Special Education Director at your school district about the issue
    • Reach out to the Department to speak to a complaint investigators Tricia.craig@tn.gov or Dana.johnson@tn.gov  and they will work with you to try to resolve this informally
    • File an administrative complaint with the Department of Education
    • Request mediation from an outside party
    • Request a Due Process hearing
You can learn more about three more formal options listed at the end of that list on the TN Department of Education website here: https://www.tn.gov/education/legal-services/special-education-legal-services/legal-dispute-resolution-processes.html
    The Arc Tennessee provides assistance to families to help them learn to navigate the special education system, learn their child’s rights under the law, and provide guidance and support at Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. For help, email SpecialEducation@thearctn.org or call 615-248-5878, ext 306.
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