In most cases, informal discussions with personnel at the school or district level will be able to resolve your disputes. Since these are the individuals who are making the decisions that most directly effect your child, dealing with them directly is usually the best way to effect meaningful and satisfying positive changes in your child’s education.
In general, it is advisable to use more informal methods to resolve disputes, such as simply speaking to your child’s teachers and school administrators. It is important to realize and keep in mind, however, that formal methods do exist. These more formal methods include mediation, hearings, and requests for formal investigations into the school’s practices.
Why are less formal methods preferable? Informal methods are far less confrontational and less resource-intensive than formal methods. At the same time, they are more cooperative and more focused upon the individuals who have direct contact with your child than formal methods.
Unfortunately, informal methods do not always work. This may be due to a personality conflict, a misunderstanding of school officials as to what the law requires of them, or an unwillingness on the part of school officials to do as the law requires. It is for these cases that formal methods exist. Formal methods are useful for forcing the school to do something that it does not wish to do. If your conflict has reached this point, then you may require such methods. In many cases, however, it is possible to work with the school, rather than against it, to find a solution that will meet your child’s needs. If it is possible to do this, then it is likely in your child’s best interest.
Formal methods tend to require more time and money than informal methods. While the formal methods are all technically free, it can be difficult to get the most out of them without a legal advocate, which can be very expensive.
Informal methods typical depend upon finding allies within a child’s school. This may be a teacher, a special education specialist, or a school administrator. Once an ally is found, it is often possible to work with the school rather than against it. More formal methods tend to assume that there are no individuals in the school who are willing to work with you without some intermediary.
Formal methods tend to focus on those who run the school district and the senior school administrators. These are, typically, individuals who have little to no direct contact with your child. While they can make decisions that will have an impact upon your child’s education, they will not be the individuals responsible for directly implementing those decisions. Less formal methods can go to the source of a problem. If your concern is with something ocurring in your child’s classroom, you can resolve that issue with your child’s teacher. If your concern is with how discipline is being meted out, you can discuss that with the dean of students.