Chapter 5.9: Conflict Resolution

    Introduction

    The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) and Operating Standards for Ohio Educational Agencies Serving Children with Disabilities strongly favor avoiding due process hearings when possible by resolving disputes through alternate, less adversarial and more cost-effective means. Ohio's Standards and IDEA offer several different approaches for resolving disagreements when parents and the school do not agree on a child’s identification, evaluation, educational placement or provision of a free appropriate public education. Additionally, there are informal strategies not addressed in IDEA or Ohio's standards that focus on collaborative problem-solving and improving communication between the school and the parents. A particular approach may be more appropriate than others at different times and for different reasons.

    Options for resolving disputes include:

    • Discussion or conference;
    • IEP meeting;
    • IEP facilitation;
    • Administrative review;
    • State complaints;
    • Mediation;
    • Due process complaint; and/or
    • Resolution meeting.

    Discussion or conference

    The first step in avoiding due process hearings and resolving disagreements is for school personnel and parents to sit down together and communicate. This is good practice in any situation where the school is aware of the potential for a dispute. This is often referred to as a case conference and may be requested by school district personnel or parents.

    IEP meeting

    This process is provided for under IDEA and Operating Standards for Ohio Educational Agencies Serving Children with Disabilities. The school district is responsible for determining when it is necessary to conduct an IEP meeting, and the child’s IEP team is responsible for reviewing the child’s IEP periodically, but at least annually, and for revising the child’s IEP, if appropriate. In addition, the parents of a child with a disability have the right to request an IEP meeting at any time.

    If the parents are concerned about their child’s rate of progress, the appropriateness of the services provided to the child or the child’s educational placement, it is appropriate for the IEP team to reconvene. At this meeting, the parents and the school district can discuss the parents’ concerns. As collaborative members of the IEP team, they may be able to work toward a solution that is agreeable to all and that benefits the child.

    IEP facilitation

    The IEP facilitation process is not required by IDEA or Ohio’s standards. However, the process has been adopted by the Ohio Department of Education, Office for Exceptional Children (ODE/OEC), as a process which may be viewed as less adversarial than a formal written complaint or request for a due process hearing. The services of the facilitator are provided by OEC at no cost to the school district or parents.

    The IEP facilitation process allows IEP teams to meet with an impartial third party to resolve issues regarding the child’s IEP. IEP facilitation is voluntary and must be mutually agreed upon by both the school district and the parents. The process may be used any time the IEP team cannot reach consensus concerning a child’s IEP. IEP facilitation should be used very early in the process of conflict resolution, when disagreements between the parties first emerge.

    The IEP facilitator has received specialized training in IEP development and helps keep IEP team members focused on developing the IEP, while addressing conflicts and disagreement that may arise during the meeting.

    IEP team members are required to sign an Agreement to a Facilitated Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meeting form.

    The IEP facilitation process is described in IEP Facilitation Procedures for Special Education, A Guide for Parents and Districts, Ohio Department of Education, Office for Exceptional Children, Revised September 2009.

    A brief overview of the process is described in the chart "Conflict Resolution Processes."

    Administrative reviews

    This process is provided for in Operating Standards for Ohio Educational Agencies Serving Children with Disabilities. It provides parents or other educational agencies the opportunity to present complaints to the superintendent of the child’s district of residence and to resolve disputes at the local level. The superintendent or the superintendent’s designee conducts a review or may hold an administrative hearing, and in either case issues a written decision.

    Requirements and guidance are located in Procedural Safeguards - 5.10 Administrative Reviews.

    A brief overview of the process is described in the chart "Conflict Resolution Processes."

    State complaints

    This process is provided for under IDEA and Operating Standards for Ohio Educational Agencies Serving Children with Disabilities. A state complaint consists of a signed written complaint that is filed with ODE/OEC charging a violation under Part B of the IDEA or under Ohio’s laws and Operating Standards for Ohio Educational Agencies Serving Children with Disabilities. The complaint can be filed by any party, including an individual, parent, organization or third party. OEC will investigate a sufficient complaint and issue a written decision. This process allows for the prompt resolution of complaints at no cost to either the complainant or the school district and may be considered less adversarial than a due process hearing.

    Whenever a state complaint is filed by parents against a school district, the OEC will offer both parties the opportunity to take their dispute to mediation. If the mediation results in a written, signed agreement, the complaint is withdrawn and the agreement is implemented.

    Requirements and guidance are located in Procedural Safeguards - 5.12 State Complaint Procedures.

    A brief overview of the process is described in the chart "Conflict Resolution Processes."

    Mediation

    This process is provided for under IDEA and Operating Standards for Ohio Educational Agencies Serving Children with Disabilities. Mediation is a confidential, voluntary process for resolving disputes between two parties. Either school districts or parents may initiate it, and both parties must agree to the mediation. Mediation is offered by ODE/OEC at no cost to the school district or parents. However, both parties pay any individual costs, including the costs of any attorney they choose to use. Mediation is available at any time and is offered when a due process complaint or a state complaint is filed. A successful mediation results in a written, signed, legally binding agreement.

    Requirements and guidance are located in Procedural Safeguards - 5.11 Mediation. Additionally, information for parents is included in Statewide Special Education Mediation Procedures: A Guide for Parents, School Districts and Parent Advocacy Agencies, Ohio Department of Education, Office for Exceptional Children, September 2009.

    A brief overview of the process is described in the chart "Conflict Resolution Processes."

    Due process complaint

    This process is provided for under IDEA and Operating Standards for Ohio Educational Agencies Serving Children with Disabilities. A due process hearing is requested by filing a due process complaint. A due process complaint can be filed by parents, a school district, a county board of DD or another educational agency, and can lead to mediation, a resolution meeting and/or a hearing. The due process complaint is filed with the child’s school district of residence to resolve disputes about the child’s identification, evaluation, educational placement or provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE). If the filing of the complaint leads to a hearing, an impartial hearing officer conducts a hearing and issues a written decision. That decision is final unless it is appealed to the ODE. The district pays for the cost of the hearing officer. Each party pays its own costs, including the costs of any attorneys, witnesses or experts they use, mailing and copying costs. However, the prevailing party in a due process action may go to court to seek reimbursement of reasonable attorney fees.

    Whenever a due process complaint is filed by either the parents or the school district, the OEC will offer to both parties the opportunity to take their dispute to mediation. If the mediation results in a written, signed agreement, the due process complaint is withdrawn and the agreement is implemented.

    Requirements and guidance are located in Procedural Safeguards - 5.13 Due Process Complaints and Procedural Safeguards - 5.15 Impartial Due Process Hearing.

    A brief overview of the process is described in the chart "Conflict Resolution Processes."

    Resolution meeting

    This process is provided for under IDEA and Operating Standards for Ohio Educational Agencies Serving Children with Disabilities. A resolution meeting must be held unless the parents and the school district agree to use the state mediation process or agree in writing to waive the meeting. The school district must convene a resolution meeting with the parents and relevant members of the IEP team within 15 days of receiving the parents’ due process complaint and before initiating a due process hearing. The purpose of this meeting is for the child's parents to discuss the due process complaint and the facts that form the basis of the due process complaint, so the school district has the opportunity to resolve the dispute. Discussions that occur during the resolution meeting are confidential. If a resolution to the dispute is reached, a written, legally binding agreement is developed and signed and the complaint is withdrawn. If an agreement is not reached, the due process hearing proceeds.

    Requirements and guidance are located in Procedural Safeguards - 5.14 Resolution Process.

    A brief overview of the process is described in the chart "Conflict Resolution Processes."

    Reference: Rebhorn, T., and Kupper, L. (2007, August). Introduction to procedural safeguards (Module 17). Building the legacy: IDEA 2004 training curriculum. Washington, DC: National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. Available online at: http://www.nichcy.org/training/contents.asp

     

Last Modified: 7/11/2013 4:01:47 PM