EDUCATION

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) entitles children with disabilities to a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Parents and school officials sometimes disagree on what special education services and placement a child should receive under this right. Mediation, which has an overall success rate of more than 85% is the preferred approach as it is more likely to repair rather than damage relationships between parents and the school district attended by their child.

Q: What is mediation?

A: Mediation is assisted negotiation which the parties have voluntarily chosen. The discussion is confidential, allowing people to speak in an unguarded manner, without being concerned about being quoted at a later date. This allows a flexibility in the negotiation process which conflict usually removes. The parties in the mediation self-determine the outcome. What does this mean? You select the process and you are in charge of the outcome.

 

Q: How does mediation work

in special education issues?

 

A: Mediators seek to interrupt old and unproductive cycles of interaction. One of the mediator’s tasks is to ensure that each person at the table has a full voice and is heard. They pay attention to the comfort level of the participants, providing what is needed for people to be at their best as negotiators. They work to focus the discussion by asking questions and summarizing key points, identifying the issues, framing them carefully. They manage the issues and attend to sequence, timing and development. They facilitate a methodical process for people to move from voicing and revisiting a student’s circumstances to evaluating the usefulness and benefit of possible outcomes. They carefully conduct a process without directing the outcome. Bringing a mediator into the review of a student’s needs changes the way people communicate with each other, changes the process and, as a result, brings new possibilities for outcomes.

Q: Are Online Mediation Sessions Available?

A: Yes. We provide both Online Mediation Services and On-site Mediation Services. The benefits of holding mediation sessions online include (1) the elimination of travel time and travel costs for all attendees; and (2) participation from a comfortable location, which often lessens anxiety.

 

Q. What should Parents and School Districts 

expect from a mediator?

 

A: A mediator should act in a way which doesn’t leave anyone with a perception of bias or unequal attention or treatment. Participants should feel no coercion from the mediator. A mediator should be competent to conduct a process where people can feel comfortable discussing difficult issues which concern them. The mediator should be knowledgeable of federal special education law and regulation, state education law and regulation as well as key case law. This is important to make sure that rights and obligations are fairly represented. Mediation provides some degree of flexibility in a highly regulated area. However, mediated agreements should reflect the guarantees in the framework of law and regulation.

 

Q: When should mediation be requested?

 

A: Mediation must be jointly requested by parents and a school district. The earlier it is requested, the better. Continuing to bring the IEP Team back to the table with the same participants, same room, same agenda, same format, bears decreasing returns. Bringing in a mediator introduces a skilled and impartial facilitator to the table. A mediator helps people re-examine their thinking, assumptions and conclusions and encourages fresh thinking.