The Wrightslaw Way

to Special Education Law and Advocacy

The Wrightslaw Way random header image

If You Have a Dispute, Litigation is the Last Resort

by Wrightslaw

We requested that our son be put in an inclusion classroom at his home school. The school denied our request.

We don’t have an attorney. What can we do? Should we threaten litigation?

Never tell a school, or anyone else, that you plan to sue them. There are other ways to resolve parent-school disputes. Depending on the issue, you may continue to negotiate, file a complaint with the state, or request mediation. Litigation is the last resort.

In most cases, threatening to sue makes things worse …

Why? If you threaten to sue, the school may initiate litigation against YOU.

Schools initiate due process hearings against parents to get a Hearing Officer or Administrative Law Judge to issue a ruling that their program for your child is appropriate. If this happens, you will really be in the soup.

What should you do?


Parents who are successful in resolving school problems do not threaten to sue. They play their cards close to their chests. They try other strategies to resolve their dispute with the school.  They do not initiate a due process hearing until they have exhausted other ways to resolve their problem.

If you do need to initiate litigation, you need to prepare for litigation. You are not prepared. You don’t have an attorney. You haven’t tried other ways to resolve your dispute with the school.

Consult with an Attorney

Most parents do not need to retain an attorney. They need a plan to resolve their dispute.

Consider a consultation with an attorney who has expertise in special education law and litigation. To find an attorney who represents the interests of children with disabilities and their families, check the page for your state on the Yellow Pages for Kids site.

We built the Yellow Pages for Kids site so parents and caregivers can get reliable information and support. When you visit your state Yellow Pages you will find many resources – attorneys, advocates, evaluators, tutors, programs, and support groups.

Also check the website for the  Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates for a list of attorneys and advocates in your state.

Before you interview or retain an attorney or advocate, read these articles:

Guidelines for Choosing an Attorney to Represent Your Child’s Interests

Guidelines for Choosing a Lay Advocate in Special Education

Surviving Due Process

Before you consider litigation, watch the  Surviving Due Process: When Parents and School District Disagree DVD. The story is based on an actual case and will give you a good idea of what to expect in a due process hearing.

Good luck!

Pete & Pam Wright

Print Friendly

Tags:   · · · · 13 Comments

Leave a Reply

13 Comments on "If You Have a Dispute, Litigation is the Last Resort"


I wish I would’ve never started down the due process road. My son was prohibited to attend. He was only receiving homebound instruction at 5 hours per week.

He had complicated trauma issues and aspergers and orthopedic dysgraphia.

he never finished grade school but got pushed on to high school.

i ran into Pete Wright in the hallway at a conference in michigan and realize that no matter what type of discrimination and exclusion my son is dealt, we both must remain cool and almost ingratiating.

i don’t thin the district attorney wil ever discharge himself even after I’ve withdrawn my due process, twice. once through losing my son’s therapy in the first mediation and then simply walking away from the second round after filing a complaint with the OCR in the dept of ed charging retaliation of removal of therapy services.


this is great website. it has helped me on many occasions.
Specially the Spanish sections that is so much needed with the population I work with
Thank you


Here in Hamilton County in the state of Tennessee we need more advocates in our schools to stand up for the rights of our dyslexic children. When the regular education kids aren’t reading at grade level, how do we think the dyslexic children in ” Exceptional Education” are fairing? Tennessee children are being cheated out of an education and we have to stand up and let our elected officials know that !!!!!


This issue is great about don’t file due process/litigation. What about situations where you have removed your child from the school district. The 2 year mark for due process is approaching. You have a good chance of a win on the issue of ESY, Failure to follow statutory requirement to remediate & retest after failure of CRCT test. In addition, a practice of writing or changing IEP without parent as part of team. Is it time to file due process? It becomes very scary to go it alone, without attorney, after seeing & reading this new information. Await your response. Marjorie


I have questions for Pam or anyone? I have a 16 yr. old. moderate to severe Autistic son who is non verbal and also type 1 Diabetic. We filed due process with our school because federal laws were broken. we resolved that matter. now we brought our son back to our district of residence hoping he would receive appropriate services. it has been 2yrs. now. I happen to be employed privately by the district to take care of our son’s diabetic needs. just recently the district changed my position to personal attendant to my son because they were not teaching him. I have seen and made it known to the district that they are not abiding or in terms, not in compliance with our son’s iep for one to one intervention with his teacher since school started . we had meetings with administration, have not gotten anywhere.

I filed writtten complaints to the state of education just recently before xmas. I have written letters to superintendent and special education director and we have not had any response from them . do we wait for the state or do we just file due process with our attorney? my son has regressed this year and we have another iep coming up in january to go over our sons progress. do I ask for compensatory time the school owes him and could I tell them we are looking else where for a program to meet our sons needs? Help?