Even when parents and school officials try their best to develop and provide an appropriate program for a child, disagreements can occur. If you do not believe your child’s special education program is working, you should first talk to your child’s teacher. You can request an IEP meeting to discuss your child’s program and to explain why you think a change is necessary. You can also reach out to the special education director of the school district or charter school to identify and discuss your concerns.

If the concerns about your child’s special education program cannot be resolved at the school district level, there are other options available to help reach agreement.  Mediation and due process are options required by the special education law and described in the Procedural Safeguards Notice.

Mediation:

If both parties, the parent and local educational agencies (LEAs), agree to mediation, the Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR) will arrange for a neutral, specially trained mediator to help parties resolve conflicts about the child’s educational program. During mediation, parties share points of view and seek solutions that are documented in a legally binding mediation agreement. The special education law states that the Mediation Agreement is considered legal, binding, and enforceable in a court of law.

Due Process Hearing:

A due process hearing may be requested by either the parent or LEA. The hearing may be requested with respect to matters relating to the identification, evaluation, educational placement of a child, or provision of FAPE. The due process hearing is a formal hearing that is similar to a trial.  The Hearing Officer acts as a judge and writes a decision based on his or her analysis of the information presented during the hearing.

There are other alternative dispute resolution processes available for resolving disagreements. Although not mandated by the special education law, these have been found to be beneficial in resolving special education conflicts.

IEP Facilitation:

Facilitation is a voluntary option that is available when local educational agencies (LEAs) and parents agree to have a neutral person- the IEP Facilitator- attend the IEP meeting to assist in discussing concerns regarding the development of the IEP.

Resolution Meeting Facilitation:

When a parent requests a due process hearing, the school and parents must hold resolution meeting within 15 days unless both sides agree to waive the meeting or try mediation instead. If both parties agree to have a neutral person at the resolution meeting, ODR will send a facilitator to assist the parties in reaching agreement. If agreement is reached, the due process hearing might not be needed.

All of these processes are provided by the Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR) and each process involves a neutral, third-party participant.

Learn more about these options by viewing the Pennsylvania Quick Guide to Special Education Dispute Resolution  (English) (Spanish)