Mediation is a free, voluntary, and confidential process designed to help parents and school officials resolve disputes about special education. Parents and schools are frequently able to reach agreements about the child’s special education program through mediation and therefore eliminate the need for a due process hearing. Because it is voluntary both you and the school must be willing to participate in order for mediation to occur. The mediation session may take place at any time before or during the due process cycle. Because mediation is voluntary, neither you nor the school will be required to participate and it can not delay or deny a parent the right to a due process hearing.
If you and school officials agree to try mediation, the Office for Dispute Resolution will arrange for a neutral, specially-trained mediator to hold a mediation session. During mediation, both you and the school will have the opportunity to share your points of view. Sometimes the mediator will meet with each side separately in order to better understand their concerns. This is called a caucus. Neither school officials nor parents may have a lawyer at the mediation session.
The mediator will not make a decision but rather will help both parties to reach an agreement. If an agreement is reached, it will be put into writing and, if appropriate, it will be incorporated into the student’s IEP. The mediation agreement is a legally binding document and is enforceable in a court.
If a parent requests mediation within ten calendar days of receipt of a Notice of Recommended Educational Placement/Prior Written Notice (NOREP/PWN) recommending a change in the student’s placement, the law requires that the student remain in the current educational program, unless the parent and school agree otherwise. This is called “pendency” or “stay put”. Disciplinary changes in placement as outlined in 34 CFR §300.530 (c) and (g) are not covered by pendency during mediation. An overview and FAQ regarding pendency during mediation can be found on ODR’s website.
CADRE, the National Center for Dispute Resolution in Special Education, has developed a guide for parents about mediation. The guide was written with the support of parent leaders from across the country. This guide was not developed by ODR and therefore does not include Pennsylvania-specific regulations and procedures.
If you would like to request Mediation, you can use the Request Form below and submit it to ODR. You can also call the Special Education ConsultLine at 1-800-879-2301 for assistance in submitting a mediation request form.