Early Assistance Program for Special Education

The Early Assistance Program (EAP) at the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) provides technical assistance to help parents, adult students, guardians, school district staff, advocates and other members of the special education community understand the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and implementing Montana laws.

The EAP also provides informal dispute resolution for special education issues relating to a student’s free and appropriate public education or any violation of Part B of the IDEA or implementing Montana laws.  Parents and school districts may call the EAP and ask for assistance in resolving these special education concerns.  Our philosophy is to resolve special education disagreements amicably, with the lowest level of third-party involvement as possible, thereby preventing costly legal entanglements.  Given the opportunity to discuss the issues at hand in a less formidable and confrontational venue, both parents and schools can reach agreement while remaining student focused and without undermining the relationships necessary to ensure the smooth delivery of special education services to students with disabilities. 

In addition to the EAP, there are several other dispute resolution options available under the IDEA, including: Individualized Education Program (IEP) facilitation, mediation, state administrative complaints, due process hearings, and expedited due process hearings.  A brief overview of each dispute resolution option can be found by clicking on the tabs below.  The EAP staff is available to answer questions about each of the dispute resolution options.

There are issues that may be related to special education where the EAP staff is unable to provide assistance, including matters that are outside OPI’s jurisdiction.  For example, OPI does not have jurisdiction over Section 504 Plans or claims of discrimination.  The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is the agency that has the authority to oversee these issues.  If you have a question that is outside OPI’s authority, we will work with you to try and find additional resources.

The EAP is a voluntary and impartial process and does not provide legal advice to parents or school districts.

For more information please contact: Dispute Resolution Office for Special Education at (406) 444-2046.