Mediation for Special Education
In mediation, a person helps the school and the parents come up with a solution to the problem. A mediator is a neutral person who listens to each party’s side of the story and helps them try to find a solution to the problem.
It may become clear during mediation that no agreement is going to be reached. If that occurs, both parties can walk away without an agreement.
Other times, both sides may be able to resolve the issue and will enter into a mediation agreement. The agreement can be anything that both sides agree to. It is the mediator’s job to help the parties think of possible solutions. The mediator does not decide the agreement.
Both sides must agree to take part
A parent or school district can request mediation at any time. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) will provide a mediator to assist in resolving the issue.
However, mediation is voluntary, which means that both parties have to agree to mediate for the mediation to occur. If either party does not want to mediate, then it will not happen. Also, either party can stop mediation at any time.
Lawyer not required
You don't have to bring a lawyer to mediation. Many parents can successfully negotiate a resolution to their problem at mediation without a lawyer. The school may bring a lawyer to the mediation even if you do not have one.
Although mediation can often be a parent-friendly process, a lawyer may be able to provide a unique perspective on whether a proposed binding mediation agreement is a fair option for you.
Mediation is confidential. Anything talked about at mediation cannot be repeated outside the room, or later be brought up in a due process hearing.
Placement of student during mediation
If you are disputing a proposed school placement for your child, you should know that requesting mediation at the right time can freeze the current school placement of your child while you resolve this conflict with the school.
For this to happen, you must request mediation within 10 days of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting where this change in placement was recommended by the school district. You should also know that if there are other issues in your child’s most recent IEP that you want to prevent from going into effect, you should also request mediation within 10 days.
Preventing the new IEP from going into effect by filing for mediation is called invoking “stay put.” Learn more about Going to mediation.