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A child’s education is important to their happiness and success in life. Children with disabilities can excel in school with the right support and services. However, when school staff and parents differ about the educational needs of a student with disabilities, there may be a need to further discuss these matters. Either side can request Special Education Mediation, which is a voluntary process led by a mediator who helps the parents and teachers of a child with disabilities come to an agreement on their educational needs. Under federal law, what is said during mediation is confidential. The program is a free service offered by the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA).

Preparing for Mediation

Planning ahead for mediation can help you better understand your view point and keep track of your goals. Before you attend the session, there are some important tasks that need to be completed.

  • Outline what you want for the student.
  • List solutions to help settle the dispute.
  • Go in with an open mind about the give-and-take of mediation.
  • Decide if you want to bring someone to assist you during the mediation, such as a special education advocate.

What to Expect in Mediation

On the day of the special education mediation, the arbitrator can help guide the discussion but does not make decisions. While mediation can last anywhere from 2 hours to one day, the process is usually divided into three stages.

  1. Preliminary Stage: The mediator will clarify their role in the process, including their abilities to listen and pose solutions and suggestions to the parties involved. They will also emphasize the importance of examining current and future needs rather than information from the past.
  2. Discussion: Both parties will be given the chance to explain their concerns and research options. In order to avoid any misunderstanding, the mediator will clarify statements from both parties and give occasional summaries.
  3. Closure: Once the two groups reach a decision, the mediator will outline what is expected of both parties and specifics of how to make the process work. The parents and educators will sign the agreement and receive copies. However, if they are unable to reach an agreement, the mediators will pose alternatives.

Mediation can resolve matters without a hearing or going to court. It is an informal, yet positive way of working together to improve a child’s education and ensure that all their needs are met. To find out more about mediation or about the mediator assigned to you, contact the BSEA Coordinator of Mediation at (617) 626-7291.

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