What is a mediator?
A mediator is an open-minded, third-party who does not take sides. A mediator helps the parties communicate, identify issues, discuss and understand different point of view, think of options and find a solution that is agreeable to all parties. The mediator does not make a decision for the parties like a judge or a due process hearing officer. A mediator will not give legal, financial or professional advice. This project uses practicing, trained professional mediators. They are familiar with the laws and policies affecting educational services for children with special needs.
When should we mediate?
- When you have tried your best and cannot reach a resolution.
- When you don’t want to give up or make things worse.
- When you want a chance to be heard.
- When you want to get past hurt feelings and focus on your child.
- When you are willing to try something new.
What do we gain from mediation?
- Improved communication
- Better working relationships
- Joint decision making
- Agreements everyone supports
What could we lose through using mediation?
Nothing. Mediation is free and you still have the right to a due process hearing on unresolved IEP issues.
How does mediation work?
- The mediation is scheduled after everyone has agreed to mediate. Mediations are usually held at a school or other public facility.
- The parties sign a contract agreeing that the mediation process is confidential. What is discussed in mediation cannot be used in any future due process hearing or court proceedings. There is no audio recording of the mediation and no legal record of the mediation is kept.
- Information that was available before the mediation or lay be obtained from another source is not confidential. The writing agreement that is the result of the mediation may be shared with those educators who need the information to work with your child.
- The mediator guides the meeting and helps people identify and discuss the issues.
- If a partial or full agreement is reached, the mediator writes the agreement using the parties’ own words, which state specifically who will do what and when.
- All parties sign this agreement.
- If parties to the mediation think a change is needed in the student’s IEP, that recommendation must be submitted to the IEP Team for approval. Only the team can change a student’s IEP.
- The mediation project will follow-up in three months with all parties to see if everything is going well.
Who attends mediation?
The only people at a mediation are the mediator, parents/guardians and school personnel involved in the student’s education who have the authority to make decisions for the school.
How long will mediation take?
Mediation may take as long as the parties need to reach an agreement or decide an agreement is not possible. Usually mediations last two or three hours.
Does the mediator make decisions?
No. The role of a mediator is to encourage communication, not decide the issues.
Who pays for mediation?
There is no cost to parents for mediation. This program is funded through a grant from the Arkansas Department of Education.
How do I know the school will follow through with the agreement?
All parties sign a form outlining the terms of the agreement that reflects their commitment to follow the terms. The agreement is a contract that is binding on the parties at the mediation table.
What if mediation does not work?
While studies show that mediation is often successful, in the event that the parties cannot agree, parents retain their full rights to a due process hearing.
How many people will be in the room?
Only parents/guardians and school personnel who are needed to make decisions or have necessary information are included in the mediation. The parties agree who may attend and may request a limit on the number of people who may participate.
Are mediations confidential?
Yes. Only the parties involved in the meetings will know what was said and information may not be shared outside the group. Discussion cannot be used in any future due process hearing or court proceedings. However, information that was available before the mediation or may be obtained from another source is not confidential. Parents will be given a copy of the written agreement and a copy will be placed in the student’s special education file. This agreement may be shared with those educators who need to know the information to work with the student.
How do I request mediation?
School staff, educators, parents, or students over the age of 18 may request mediation. If communication has broken down or there is a problem that cannot be resolved, you may request mediation by completing the form on this website.