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 Education's 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:
- 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 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 parties must agree to the proposed solution. In due process, a hearing officer hands down a decision which 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!
Once parents and the school district agree to a mediation settlement, both parties are bound by the agreement. A written settlement is submitted and made binding by a court of law.