|U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Special education disputes may be resolved through any of the five methods or by any combination of the methods. It is highly unusual under the law for an aggrieved party to be permitted to invoke more than one resolution option. Although mediation is often used in combination with litigation, it is rare for other formal methods to be combined. An unhappy party could file a state complaint wait for the results and then file a due process hearing over the same dispute. The same dispute can be submitted at any time in the process to mediation. A resolution session occurs in every due process filed by a parent unless waived or submitted to mediation in lieu thereof. It is true that if the complaint and due process are filed at the same time, the portions of the state complaint duplicating the due process complaint are held in abeyance until resolution of the due process, but if they are not filed at the same time, there is no prohibition upon the utilization of multiple methods.
Adding to the frustration of this lack of finality is the fact that the result of most of the options may also be appealed to one or more levels of the court system. The U. S. Supreme Court has noted that the judicial review process for special education cases takes a long time, referring to the appellate process as “ponderous.” Town of Burlington v. Dept of Educ 471 U.S. 358, 105 S.Ct. 1996, 556 IDELR 389 (1985).
A wealth of resources about dispute resolution in special education are available on the CADRE website.
This link is to the NICHCY Training Program – Module 18: Options for Dispute Resolution:
Last year, OSEP issued a 64 page Q & A document concerning dispute resolution. You can read our blog post on the disputr resolution Q & A document, which includes a link to the document, here.