The relationship between parents and schools can become strained when there are disagreements and conflict about a child’s program. Research is clear that when parents and schools work together, children have better educational outcomes. Special education mediation is a service offered by ODR to help families of children with disabilities and schools resolve their different viewpoints on a child’s special education program.



If both parties agree to mediation, the Office for Dispute Resolution will arrange for a neutral, specially trained mediator to meet with them at a mutually convenient location.  ODR mediators are contractors who are trained in mediation and who have knowledge and experience in special education.   Mediator bios can be found here.

Types of Mediation

ODR offers facilitative mediation, where the mediator assists the parties in their discussions about the issues. A facilitative mediator does not offer any opinion about the strength or weakness of either party’s position.

An evaluative mediator facilitates discussions between the parties but he or she will also offer an assessment of each party’s position. This could be done when both parties are present, or it may be done privately with each party, depending upon each party’s preference.  The assessment of the evaluative mediator is offered to assist the parties in reaching a mutual resolution of their issues. All evaluative mediations will be held virtually with Dr. Constance Fox Lyttle (bio). Once parties request mediation, they can notify the mediation case manager if they would like an evaluative mediation.

In both facilitative and evaluative mediation, the mediator will not decide the dispute for the parties. If parties find areas of agreement, the mediator will write down the agreements between the parent and the school into a “mediation agreement”, which is a legally binding document. More information about mediation is available in the Mediation Guide.


The parent and school decide who will participate in the mediation.  Parents may invite other participants to the session to help with the mediation process. If a parent chooses to bring an attorney with them to mediation, the school may also bring an attorney.  If the parent chooses to participate in mediation without an attorney, the school is not permitted to bring an attorney.  ODR pays all mediator costs for mediation regarding students with disabilities.  ODR does not pay fees for additional participants.

For more information about attorneys at mediation, please review the Frequently Asked Questions about Attorney Participation at Special Education Mediation.opens PDF file

The request form below can be used to request mediation.

Mediation Request Form

INSTRUCTIONS: When filling out the PDF version of the form to submit via e-mail, save a copy to your computer and attach it as an e-mail attachment in your e-mail client. Examples of an e-mail client include Microsoft Outlook and web based e-mail such as Gmail and Hotmail. The request should be sent to opens in a new windowODR@odr-pa.orgcreate new email.
(English)opens PDF file | (English – Online Submission)

(Español)opens PDF file | (Español – Online Submission)

As of June, 2008, state regulations were modified to incorporate pendent placement (stay-put status) for a child during mediation proceedings. More information about Pendency is available on the Mediation Pendency page of this site.

ODR: Why Mediation