BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Auditors suggest that the Louisiana Department of Education make sure concerns from parents of students with disabilities who file complaints are addressed quickly and clearly. That will require some changes.

According to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, 89,681 of 685,606 students in kindergarten to 12th grade had a disability and were getting special education services as of October of last year.

The report said 61 formal complaints were investigated in the 2021-2022 school year but not all allegations were addressed.

Auditors said LDOE got 42 emails through its dispute resolution email but didn’t investigate the allegations. A LLA report said nine emails were responded to, 13 didn’t get a response and LDOE didn’t give evidence regarding how they responded to 20 emails.

“The allegations in the emails included IEPs not being followed, services denied, discipline procedures and behavior plans not being followed,” the audit said. “These allegations were similar to other allegations that were accepted by LDOE.”

A survey found that only 456 of 954, or 47.8%, of parents or guardians said they were aware of dispute resolution options.

Auditors suggested that the state’s education department increase trust in its system for filing complaints by making it more accessible, user-friendly and transparent. Specifically, the report said, by:

  • Receiving complaints over the phone.
  • Making sure parents are routed to appropriate resources.
  • Providing forms in other languages.
  • Contacting the complainant during an investigation.

According to the report, there is currently no specific phone number for dispute resolution staff on LDOE’s website, only a general phone number listed.

Auditors made 10 calls to attempt to file a formal complaint and got the wrong information for nine calls. The audit said the call center didn’t always route calls about complaints to the dispute resolution office.

The state’s education department had one staff attorney employed to process and address dispute resolution options as of June 2023.

Meredith Jordan, executive director of Diverse Learners, said in response, “LDOE concurs with all of LLA’s recommendations and has already begun working to implement the improvements. As one example, by directing existing agency resources, we have created the state’s first special education ombudsman position as well as an additional complaint investigator. This will give parents greater access to someone to help them navigate their concerns and also more effectively review parent grievances.”

Click here to read the full audit.