The federal regulations for Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) includes many provisions to protect the rights of parents and their child with a disability while also giving families and school systems means by which to resolve disputes. These rights are known as procedural safeguards. Parents have specific rights under this law to mediation under 34 CFR &200.506.
Your school district must make mediation available to allow you and the school to resolve disagreements involving any matter under Part B of the IDEA. This includes matters which may have come up prior to the filing of a due process complaint. Mediation is available to resolve disputes whether or not you have filed a due process complaint requesting a due process hearing. If you have filed a due process complaint, mediation is typically offered as a potential way to settle these disagreements.
The requirements and procedures of mediation must ensure that the process is as follows:
- Is voluntary on your part as well as the part of the school district
- Is not used to deny or delay your right to a due process hearing, or to deny any other rights you have under Part B of the IDEA
- Is conducted by a qualified and impartial mediator who is trained in effective mediation techniques.
The school district may develop procedures that offer parents and schools that choose to use the mediation process an opportunity to meet at a time and location convenient to you, with the mediator in order to establish their credentials. The mediator's qualifications must include being under contract with an appropriate alternative dispute resolution entity, or a parent training and information center or a community parent resource center in the state. The mediator must also explain the benefits of mediation and encourage its use in order to resolve your differences with the school district.
Each state is required to have a list of people who are qualified mediators and who also know the laws and regulations relating to the provision of special education and related services. The Department of Education for each state must select mediators on a random, rotational or otherwise impartial basis. Mediators may not be an employee of the Department of Education, or any school district or State agency that receives IDEA funding through the federal government. Mediators must not have a personal or professional interest with either side which conflicts with the objectivity of the mediation.
The state is responsible for the costs of the mediation, including the costs of the meetings. Each meeting in the mediation process must be scheduled in a timely manner and be held at a place that is convenient for each party. Both the parent and the school district may be required to sign a confidentiality pledge prior to the start of the mediation process.
If you and the school district resolve a dispute through the mediation process, both parties must enter into a legally binding agreement that sets forth the resolution. This agreement must also state that all discussions that happened during the mediation process will remain confidential and may not be used as evidence in any subsequent due process hearing or civil proceeding. It must also be signed by you, the parent and a representative of the school district who has the authority to bind the school district to this agreement.
A written, signed mediation agreement is enforceable in any State court of competent jurisdiction that means, a court that has the authority under State law to hear this type of case or in a district court of the United States. Discussions that happened during the mediation process must be confidential. They cannot be used as evidence in any future due process hearing or civil proceeding of any federal court or State court of a state receiving assistance under Part B of the IDEA.