Mediation vs Hearings: SpEd Dispute Resolution

MediationImage by TomNatt via Flickr

This week I finished a decision from a due process hearing and I conducted a mediation.  Dangerous combination.  This got me to thinking about dispute resolution under IDEA.  I have long contended that mediation is a better way to resolve special education disputes. 

A due process is increasingly like a court trial.  Very adversary in nature; lots of venom.  There is of course plenty of place for venom in our society.  (Otherwise we wouldn't really need lawyers would we?)  I'm just not sure that the education of a child is one of them.  Don't get me wrong, I love doing hearings.  I have been doing some type of work as a hearing examiner, hearing officer, administrative law judge as a part of my job since 1979.  I train hearing officers, special ed and others; I am a certified hearing official.  But this is really not about me, it is about those kiddos with disabilities.

Mediation unlike the adversary hearing offers the possibility of repairing the troubled relationship between parent and school officials.  Because education demands cooperation and collaboration between parents and the schools, mediation can really be a good way to go in the long run.  I have talked to parents who won a due process hearing, but still felt like they had lost.  There is an emotional cost in using the hearing process, and it can be significant.

There are situations that require the hearing process, but from my vantage point, mediation is often a better road.  

What do you think?
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