About The Office for Dispute Resolution
The Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR) administers the special education dispute resolution system for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for parents of children with disabilities and/or giftedness, and the educational agencies who provide services to them. ODR is committed to the development and provision of services supporting proactive and local resolution of disputes, in addition to its role in the oversight of the mandated dispute resolution system.
Within ODR, the ConsultLine staff provide information to parents and advocates of children with disabilities and giftedness. ODR contracts with mediators and facilitators to provide mediation and facilitation services. Hearing officers operate out of home offices state wide. ODR staff provide administrative support to the hearing officers, and gather data from them for purposes of mandated state and federal reporting, but hearing officers decide their cases independent of influence by any organization, including ODR. According to OSEP, hearing officer decisions may only be reviewed for purposes of identifying training needs ( opens in a new windowLetter to Zirkel, May 13, 2019).
ODR’s philosophy mirrors that of a statement from the federal Department of Education, which said:
“Due process hearings provide the parties with an opportunity to have an impartial decision-maker resolve the issues in dispute. While due process hearings are an important protection, they can be costly if parties choose to involve attorneys in the process, time consuming, and contentious, and can damage relationships between families and educators. Therefore, the Department believes every effort should be made by the parties to resolve disputes as early as possible and without a due process hearing.”
July 30, 2008 Federal Register
While ODR recognizes that due process hearings are an important procedural safeguard for parents, there are many other ways to resolve disputes in addition to a hearing. ODR strives to provide a variety of dispute resolution services from which parents and educators can choose, based upon their needs and preferences.