The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) establishes requirements for your special needs child to receive a free and appropriate education (FACE). The process involved to achieve that goal involves decisions by various parties: parents, educators and other professionals. Parents have options to challenge decisions they believe are decided incorrectly. One option, mediation, provides an environment for collaboration and practical solutions.
What is required for mediation for my disabled child?
Under IDEA, all school districts must offer mediation as an option to resolve any issue related to your child’s access to a FACE. The process of mediation or dispute resolution includes several steps:
- Completing required forms: Available online, these provide spaces for parents to describe the substance of their disagreement. They should accompany a written request for mediation to the school district.
- Written request and consent: State law requires parties to provide a request for mediation in writing. The school district must consent to the mediation;
- Contact a community dispute resolution center: With the school district, you can arrange a mediation.
Parents of children with disabilities have significant power to determine how to educate their children. The decision of whether and how to challenge decisions that impact them requires serious consideration. Mediation tends to be less expensive and quicker than traditional litigation. It can also lead to less acrimony. However, it may not be the best course in every case, and may not always be in the best interest of your child’s future. An attorney familiar with the specific requirements of school districts and the rights of disabled children can help you determine the best course.