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Special Education Mediation (511 IAC 7-45-2)

What is mediation?

  • Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process that provides a trained and impartial mediator to facilitate discussion between the parent(s) and school to help the parties resolve a disagreement that may arise relating to the identification, evaluation, educational placement or the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to a student with a disability or a student suspected of having a disability.
  • The assigned mediator, who is trained in effective mediation techniques, will work as a neutral party to help resolve ongoing issues related to special education rules.
  • There is no cost to the parent(s) or the school.
  • Mediation sessions are scheduled in a timely manner in a location convenient to both parties.
  • All discussions that occur in a mediation session are confidential and cannot be used as evidence in a due process hearing or court proceeding.
  • Mediation may be requested before or at the same time as a request for a due process hearing or a complaint.

What is a written mediation agreement?

  • If the parties resolve a dispute through the mediation process, the parties must execute a written agreement that sets forth the parties’ resolution.
    • The written agreement must be signed by both the parent and the school's representative.
    • It must describe the parties' agreement.
    • It must state that all discussions that occurred during mediation are confidential and will not be used as evidence in a due process hearing or other civil court proceeding.
  • The written agreement is a legally binding agreement that may be enforced through the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) state complaint process or in federal or state court. 511 IAC 7-45-2(h)

Who may request a mediation?

  • A request for mediation may be initiated by the parent or the school.
  • While either party may initiate the request for a mediation, a mediator will not be assigned until both parties agree in writing to participate. 511 IAC 7-45-2(a)

How can I request a mediation?

  • To request a mediation electronically, please use I-CHAMP.
  • The request for a mediation can also be printed with a handwritten signature and submitted to IDOE. Click here for a sample mediation request.
  • A written request for mediation not submitted using I-CHAMP or the sample mediation request should include similar components. Please see the sample mediation request.
  • The mediation process cannot begin unless both parties agree to participate.
  • A copy may be submitted using I-CHAMP, in person, by mail, or via fax.

What can a mediation resolve?

  • A disagreement from the Case Conference Committee (CCC) meeting regarding:
    • A student's identification or eligibility for services;
    • The appropriateness of the educational evaluation, student’s proposed or current special education, services, or placement; or
    • Anything else affecting the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE);
  • A disagreement about the reimbursement for services obtained by the parent(s);
  • A complaint; or
  • A hearing.

What cannot be addressed in the mediation?

School cannot mediate due to:

  • parents’ failure to respond to a request for, or refusal to consent to, the initial provision of special education programs and services;
  • parental revocation of consent for receipt of special education services; and
  • parents’ refusal to consent, or failure to respond to a request to provide consent, to an initial evaluation or reevaluation of a student who is home-schooled or parentally placed in a private school at the parents’ expense.

When will a mediation occur?

  • Each session in the mediation process shall be scheduled in a timely manner and held in a location that is convenient to the parent and the school.
  • Once assigned to a mediator, IDOE's Office of Special Education expects mediation to occur within 30 calendar days.
  • If the school and the parent agree to engage in mediation to resolve a complaint, then the mediation must be completed within 20 calendar days of the date the parties agree in writing to engage in mediation.

Who serves as mediators and who will choose the mediator?

  • Persons who serve as mediators:
    • Registered Indiana mediator - the Office of Admissions and Continuing Education;
    • Are trained in effective mediation techniques;
    • Have no personal or professional conflict of interest regarding the parties;
    • Are impartial;
    • Have knowledge of laws and regulations relating to the provision of special education and related services;
    • Are qualified as determined by the Office of Special Education; and
    • Are not employees of IDOE or the school that is involved in the education or care of the student.
  • IDOE’s Office of Special Education will assign mediators on a general rotation basis.
  • See the full list of Qualified Special Education Mediators

What to expect from start to finish?

  • Mediation is voluntary.
  • Upon receipt of the school’s and parent’s request for mediation, IDOE’s Office of Special Education assigns the request to a mediator.
  • IDOE’s Office of Special Education will provide both parties with a copy of the mediation request and the assignment letter which names the mediator. At the time when the mediation is assigned, the parent will also receive a copy of the Notice of Procedural Safeguards.
  • The mediator will contact both parties to develop the timeline, set up the meeting location, and begin preparation.
  • Mediation will occur at a location and time convenient to both parties. Mediation should be conducted within 30 calendar days of an agreed request to mediate.  If the mediation is requested to resolve a complaint, then the mediation session should be conducted within 20 calendar days of the agreed request to mediate.
  • Once parties have agreed to a date and location, participants should be prepared to spend most of the day in mediation.  A mediation session length is often four to six hours but could last longer within a 24-hour period from the start time.
  • Before the mediation session, the mediator will review the Agreement to Mediate and ask all participants to sign acknowledging review and receipt of the information included.
  • If a resolution is reached, the mediator will assist parties in writing the terms of their agreement and all parties will sign the mediation agreement. The mediator will not make decisions.
  • Mediators will provide a copy of the written agreement to IDOE’s Office of Special Education within 24 hours after the mediation session ends.
  • After mediation, both parties are expected to carry out the activities they agreed to during the mediation as outlined in the agreement since this is a legally binding document.
  • If mediation is being requested to resolve issues in a state complaint, the mediator will receive a copy of the State complaint request and complaint investigation issues.
  • If mediation is being requested as part of a due process hearing, the mediation will not delay nor deny the right to a due process hearing. Discussions during mediation cannot be used as evidence in any due process hearing or civil proceeding. Mediation discussions or materials may not be submitted at the hearing. Only written agreements may be presented as evidence. No summary of actual discussions or offers of settlement will be permitted, as they are covered under confidentiality guidelines.

What is the role of the mediator?

The mediator facilitates communication and will not make decisions. Using conflict resolution skills, mediators provide parents and school districts a confidential forum to:

  • talk openly about differences;
  • understand each other’s concerns;
  • clarify issues;
  • find common ground;
  • improve communication/rebuild trust;
  • explore creative solutions; and
  • reach a mutually agreeable solution.

Who attends the mediation?

The parent, staff from the school district, and the mediator must be present for mediation to take place. The parent and school decide together who else may attend the mediation, such as support people. The mediator often helps with this before the mediation session.

Should the student attend the mediation?

A parent may choose to have his or her child present for all or part of the mediation session, depending upon the child’s age and maturity. For some youth with disabilities, participating in mediation may be a positive experience where they learn about advocating for themselves. This is especially true when transition issues will be discussed.

How does one prepare for mediation?

The mediator will talk to the parents and school district involved about the mediation process and assist in preparation. The parents and school district should inform the mediator of those expected to attend the mediation session.

The parents’ and school’s responsibilities are to:

  • decide what the issues are in the conflict;
  • have an authorized decision-maker for the school in attendance;
  • be willing to listen to the other person’s point of view;
  • be willing to discuss all issues;
  • consider all possible solutions;
  • work with the other participants to determine which solutions are most appropriate. In
  • mediation, parties do not win or lose, but rather work to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

What happens after mediation?

Following mediation, any agreement reached is documented in writing, signed by both parties and subsequently implemented. If the written agreement reached by the parties is inconsistent with the student’s IEP then the student’s IEP must be immediately amended to be consistent with the mediation agreement. If an impartial hearing was scheduled, but all issues are resolved to the parties’ satisfaction, then the party that requested the impartial hearing should submit a written withdrawal of their due process request for an impartial hearing.

If an agreement is reached on some, but not all, of the issues in dispute, those issues which were agreed to are written in an agreement and all parties sign it.

What happens if an agreement is reached, but one or both parties are not abiding by the agreement?

A written, signed mediation agreement is legally binding and enforceable in any state court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States or through the state complaint process. If one or both parties are not abiding by the agreement, either party may wish to consult an attorney for more information. In addition, if the mediation agreement resulted in a change to the student’s IEP, the parents could submit a written state complaint alleging that the IEP is not being implemented. For information on the state complaint process, go to the special education State Complaint webpage.

What are the benefits of mediation?

Mediation is a highly effective process to resolve issues relating to special education. In mediation, the focus is on establishing collaboration and communication between the parties. Mediation allows the parties to discuss the issues and work together to develop a mutually agreeable solution. Because the parties have a direct role in resolving their own disputes, there may be greater commitment and ownership of the agreement. It may also result in greater satisfaction and improved relationships between the parties. In addition, mediation is provided at no cost to the parents and school district and can be a less adversarial and time-consuming way of resolving disputes.