Special Education Mediation is an neutral process that brings the proper parties who have a dispute to confidentially discuss the disputed issues with a neutral third party with the goal of resolving the disputes in a binding written agreement. It offers an opportunity for parents and public agencies to resolve disputes or complaints about any matter involved in proposals or refusals to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child or the provisions of FAPE to the child with a disability.
IDEA provides for the option of mediation whenever a due process hearing is requested and each party may end the mediation process at any stage and proceed with a due process hearing for any reason consistent with the IDEA. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), mediation is voluntary on the part of parties. A party can include the parents of a child with a disability or representatives of the local education agency (LEA), or, as appropriate, the State education agency (SEA), or other public agencies that have responsibility for the free appropriate public education (FAPE) of children with disabilities.
While mediation cannot guarantee specific results, mediation can be an efficient and effective method of dispute resolution between the parents and the LEA, or, as appropriate, the SEA or other public agency. Mediation often results in lowered financial and emotional costs compared to due process; given its voluntary nature and the ability of parties to devise their own remedies, mediation often results in written agreements where parties have an increased commitment to, and ownership of, the agreement.
Why Choose Mediation: Mediation provides an opportunity to resolve special education disputes in a safe environment that promotes open communication and collaboration. The resulting outcomes are developed by the parties themselves, instead of being adjudicated by a hearing officer. The mediator facilitates a discussion in which the parties can freely share their differences and work towards a resolution. The benefits of mediation include:
- Mediation can help everyone better understand differing points of view.
- Participants work on solutions together and are in control of the outcome.
- Parties who develop a mutual agreement in mediation are more likely to comply with its terms.
- Mediation is generally far less expensive than litigation.
- The collaborative process preserves the working relationship between parent and school.