IEP mediation is the first official step in due process. It is designed to be less confrontational than a hearing in that its goal is to assist both parents and the school district in reaching a compromise.
The mediator is a neutral party. County and State Department of Educations provide districts with a list of qualified mediators. They do not work for the school district and they do not have any authority that allows them to force a parent to settle a case.
The sessions must be made available at no cost to the parent and are voluntary. If they are not successful, comments and evidence presented during the meeting cannot be used in the due process hearing.
BENEFITS of IEP MEDIATION:
The mediation session must be held at a time and place convenient to the parent. It usually takes a full day. The district will usually send a special education administrator and case manager to the mediation. Parents may bring anything or anyone they wish including outside evaluations and specialists.
Bargaining is part of the process. Be prepared to present your wish list and to state your case as strong as possible. Since IEP mediation is a compromise, know in advance what items you are willing to concede and what you are not. After the mediation is over, the following outcomes are possible:
1. Full settlement of all issues: You've reached an agreement that both parties are happy with.
2. Partial settlement: You've agreed on some issues and disagreed on others.
3. No settlement was reached but both parties have agreed to try again at another time.
4. No settlement was reached and no further resolution attempts are scheduled. Parties have decided to go to a due process hearing to resolve the issues.
Once parents and the school district agree to a settlement and sign the forms, both parties are bound by the agreement. A written settlement is submitted and made binding by a court of law.
If you are dealing with a discipline issue or your child is facing expulsion, I encourage you to read the special section on school discipline and special education to better understand your rights and options.
If you are considering special education advocacy services you can read more about this option as well.