I was curious when I started reading this Dallas Morning News article about the trend of school districts using an ombudsman, which is a public official appointed to investigate citizens’ complaints against government agencies or officials. I just got a report (pdf) from Project Forum, a project of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, on alternative ways to resolve disputes between school districts and parents of special education students. It left me wondering if an ombudsman could nip problems in the bud before they lead to due-process hearings.
After finishing the story, though, I’m skeptical. If I were a parent with a concern about my child’s education, I would want to speak to someone with some actual power to resolve my issue, and I’d want them to work fast. Possible school closures and cheerleading tryouts (two issues fielded by ombudsmen in the article) are important, but they’re not nearly as complex as an individualized education program. And the parents quoted in the story don’t sound particularly thrilled with their experience.
However, the Project Forum report says that some states do use “dispute resolution case managers.” I wonder if any readers have had experience with an ombudsman-like official in the special education arena? Is such a position a worthwhile idea, or wasted money?
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.