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.
Parents can choose if they want to have an attorney with them in the mediation session. 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.
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.
ODR Mediation Guide
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 the ODR’s website.
IDEA Special Education Mediation: A Guide for Parents of Children and Youth
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.