Understanding IEP Mediation

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.


  • IEP mediation gives parents the opportunity to understand the school district’s reasoning and point of view and the school a chance to hear the parent's viewpoint without being in an adversarial environment.
  • Mediation allows the district to be more flexible in their settlement as they may want to avoid the costs of a hearing.
  • It also helps maintain a relationship with the school district. This is especially important if the child will be remaining at the school or if the family has other children who will be attending.
  • Both must agree to the proposed solution. In due process, a hearing officer hands down a decision. This may or may not be in the parent's favor.
  • Mediation is low cost, especially if attorneys are not involved.
  • The mass majority of dispute cases are resolved either in IEP meetings or in mediation. Very few cases make it all the way to a due process hearing. Once again, collaboration is usually best!

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.

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