IDEA requires school systems to establish and implement procedures to make Mediation available to parents and public agencies to resolve a dispute involving any matter arising under Part B, including matters arising prior to the filing of a due process complaint. Mediation is entirely voluntary.
The Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S. House of Representatives (2005), defines mediation “as an attempt to bring about a peaceful settlement or compromise between parties to a dispute through the objective intervention of a neutral party. Mediation is an opportunity for parents and school officials to sit down with an independent mediator and discuss a problem, issue, concern, or complaint in order to resolve the problem amicably without going to due process.”
The purpose of mediation is to provide you and the school district a chance to meet and explain your point of view concerning the disagreement. It is also a time to hear and understand the district’s point of view on the subject.
An impartial mediator will help lead the conversation, but will not take sides or make decisions. All decision must be made and agreed to by you and the district. The mediator will help each of you recognize when you have come to an agreement and will help you keep track of what you have agreed to. You and the school district must both sign the written agreement for it to be legal.
Both you and the school district must agree to mediation. Once you do that you must also agree on the person to run the mediation.
Click on any question below to view answers to questions that parents most frequently ask us.
When/How do I request mediation?
You can request mediation anytime there is a disagreement under Part B of IDEA. You will be given the option to participate in Mediation anytime you file a Child Complaint or Due Process Complaint.
What timelines are involved in mediation?
Mediation must be scheduled within 15 days of picking a mediator. The mediation must be completed within 30 days of agreeing to the mediation process.
Do the parent and the school district both have to agree to mediation?
Yes. Mediation is a voluntary process, so both parties must agree to it.
Will mediation cost me anything?
Only disputes that concern issues that could be raised in a Due Process Hearing or a Child Complaint are acceptable cases for state-paid Mediation. However, parties can decide to go to Mediation on other issues at their own cost.
How is a mediator selected?
The Department maintains a list of qualified mediators. When both parties in a dispute agree to mediate, they need to jointly agree on and contact a mediator who must agree to take the case. One of the parties informs the Department which mediator has been selected and the Department confirms the appointment. Mediation cannot proceed until the appointment letter is issued by the Department. This ensures the Department will pay for the mediator’s services. The mediator will notify the parties of the time, date, and location of the appointment.
What makes a person qualified to be a mediator?
In order for a mediator to be considered qualified they must meet the following criteria:
- Must be impartial and not have any conflict of interest;
- Cannot be employed by the school district in charge of the care or education of the student;
- Cannot be employed by the State Board of Education;
- Must complete a minimum of 16 hours of training as a mediator;
- Must meet all regulations, requirements, and must agree to be compensated at a rate set by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE);
- Must provide DESE with a resume or a statement indicating their qualifications;
- Must be knowledgeable in laws and regulations concerning special education and related services.
Who attends the mediation session?
No more than 3 people can accompany each party, unless both agree to allow more. Someone with decision-making power must attend for the school district.
Can my attorney/advocate attend the mediation session?
There is nothing in the IDEA statutes or regulations that prohibit an attorney from attending a mediation session either on behalf of the parent or school district, however, the Missouri State Plan (pg. 63) states that “no attorney shall participate or attend on behalf of any party at the mediation session”. IDEA does acknowledge that the presence of an attorney could possibly contribute to an adversarial atmosphere. Either party can be accompanied by a non-attorney advocate.
Where will the mediation session take place?
The mediation session will be conducted at a time and place convenient to both parties. Meetings often take place at the school district’s administration building.
What happens during the mediation session?
You and the school district meet with a qualified mediator to openly discuss the issues that lead up to the request for mediation. This is a time to try to work toward consensus. The mediator does not take sides or make decisions. If agreements are reached the mediator helps both you and the district write those agreements down. If consensus with the process is reached an agreement will be written up that both parties need to sign. Once signed the agreement is legally binding.
Must a mediation agreement be followed?
Yes, if the team reaches an agreement they must document the specific terms they agreed to. Both parties must sign the agreement.
Are mediation agreements confidential?
The signed written agreement must include a statement that anything discussed during the mediation sessions are confidential and cannot be used as evidence in any due process hearing or civil hearing.
What if we don't reach an agreement?
If an agreement cannot be reached and a child complaint or due process complaint has been filed then the State must investigate the complaint. If a child complaint or due process complaint has not already been filed the parent may file a complaint.
Why should I consider mediation?
Mediation can be an efficient and effective method of dispute resolution between parents and school districts. Mediation has many benefits for parents and educators, including:
- Conflicts that arise out of misunderstandings or lack of shared information can be resolved through mediators helping parents and educators communicate directly with one another;
- Special education issues are complex and can best be resolved by working collaboratively;
- Mediation often results in lowered financial and emotional costs, especially when compared to due process. It also tends to be faster and less adversarial;
- Since mediation is voluntary both parties typically have more buy-in to reaching consensus. Mediation often results in a written agreement because both parties have an increased commitment to, and ownership of, the agreement;
- Remedies are often individually tailored and contain workable solutions that are easier for the parties to implement since they have both been involved in developing the specific details of the plan. Because both parties come to their own agreement, as opposed to a third party deciding the solution, there is generally more follow through and compliance with the terms of the agreement.