Friday, April 25, 2014

Procedural Safeguards The Series Part VIII

This is the eighth installment in a multi-part series on procedural safeguards under the federal special education law, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. I work a lot in this area, so it is near and dear to my heart. Despite the importance of procedural safeguards. however, many issues in this area are misunderstood. I hope that all of the different types of special education stakeholders who read this blog find the information in this series helpful.


Mediation is a highly flexible way to resolve disagreements between school systems and parents of children with disabilities. An impartial person, called a mediator, helps parents and school district personnel to communicate more effectively and develop a written document that contains the details of their agreement. The mediator has been trained in effective mediation techniques.

Participation in mediation is completely voluntary; parents and school districts only have to participate if they choose to. The mediation process is also confidential; discussions cannot be used in any future due process hearing or court proceeding. 34 CFR § 300.506(b)(8); 71 Fed. Register No. 156 at pages 46695-96 (August 14, 2006).

IDEA requires state education agencies to provide a mediation system at no cost to the parties; mediation is free for both parents and school districts. Mediation must be available at any point in the process, including disputes arising before a due process complaint has been filed. IDEA §615(e).

A mediation agreement must state that mediation discussions are confidential and may not be used in a subsequent due process hearing or court proceeding. § 615(e)(2)(F)(i). IDEA specifically provides that mediation agreements are enforceable in court. § 615(e)(2)(F)(iii). OSEP has noted that nothing prevents parties to a mediation from agreeing to have the mediator facilitate an IEP team meeting. 71 Fed. Register No. 156 at page 46695 (August 14, 2006).

Mediators must be selected on a random, rotational or other impartial basis, and one such impartial basis would be agreement by the parties. 71 Fed. Register No. 156 at page 46695 (August 14, 2006). Because mediators are not selected by the parents, states are not required to provide a list of their mediators or their qualifications to the parents or the public in general. 71 Fed. Register No. 156 at page 46695 (August 14, 2006).

 Letter to Gerl 59 IDELR 200 (OSEP 6/6/12) OSEP opined that a school district may not use mediation as a means to inform a parent of his options after a parent revokes consent for special education. Despite the requirement under IDEA that parental decisions under IDEA be made with “informed consent,” and despite the policy favoring mediation under the reauthorization amendments, a school district may not use mediation or the other dispute resolution mechanisms under subpart E of the federal regulation, even if a parent voluntarily agrees to do so, after revocation of consent.           
Memo to Chief Sch Officers Re Dispute Resolution Procedures Under Part B of IDEA 61 IDELR. 232 (OSEP 7/23/13) The 64 page Q & A attachment includes a section on mediation.
JD by Davis v. Kanawha County Bd of Educ 571 F.3d 381, 52 IDELR 182 (4th Cir. 7/9/9) Fourth Circuit held that mediation discussions under IDEA are confidential.  Accordingly where the school district offered a settlement stating that the terms would be the same terms as a failed mediation, district could not use the settlement offer to prove that it had made a more favorable settlement offer than the relief obtained by the parent at the due process hearing;     

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES for MEDIATORS: In addition to the general IDEA resources, mediators should frequently visit the CADRE website. The Consortium for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education is an OSEP funded group that encourages mediation, IEP facilitation and other means of special education dispute resolution that are less formal and legalistic than due process hearings. Their website is loaded with helpful articles, materials and other information.  
Here is the OSEP Topic Brief on Mediation:

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