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Section 4

ak dept education

special ed handbook
SECTION 4
MEDIATION

When a District and a parent have a dispute they are unable to resolve, they may seek to address their differences through mediation. Mediation is a no-cost, voluntary process through which an impartial third party helps parties experiencing a conflict reach a suitable agreement. The Department encourages the use of mediation whenever a dispute arises in the identification, evaluation, placement, or provision of an appropriate program of an individual with a disability.

The District must also encourage the use of mediation whenever a dispute arises in the identification, evaluation, placement, or provision of an appropriate program of an individual with a disability.

Systemic issues must be addressed in a separate mediation if the parent and District agree to participate in mediations involving systemic issues.

The ultimate goal of mediation is to seek a written agreement that is mutually acceptable to both parties. However, even if a formal agreement is not reached, mediation may be helpful in clarifying issues. The District should refrain from using the term “mediation” to refer to any district-level process for resolving disputes. When an impasse is reached with a parent, the District should suggest use of the state mediation system.

Alaska's Mediation System

The Department contracts for the administration of a statewide mediation system. The following are guidelines of Alaska's system:
  1. Mediation is a voluntary process mutually agreed to by a parent and the District.
  2. The mediation conference is an informal dispute resolution process conducted in a non-adversarial atmosphere.
  3. Each mediation conference is scheduled in a timely manner and is held in a location that is convenient to the parties involved in the dispute.
  4. Mediation is confidential.
  5. Mediation is an alternative to a due process hearing or administrative complaint.
  6. Mediation is available at no cost to parents and Districts.
  7. Mediation is a means of resolving disputes regarding the identification, evaluation, and educational placement provisions of FAPE.
  8. Any resolution reached as part of the mediation process must not conflict with state or federal law and must be satisfactory to both parties.
  9. Either party may invite participants to the mediation conference. It is encouraged to keep the number of participants to a minimum in order to maintain an informal atmosphere. Attorneys may participate, if agreed upon by both parties prior to the mediation. Either party has the right to consult with their attorney during the mediation conference.
  10. Mediation cannot be used to deny or delay a parent's right to a due process hearing, administrative complaint investigation, or any other rights afforded under IDEA 2004.
  11. A written mediation agreement will be prepared and signed by both parties, along with the mediator. If no agreement is reached, the mediator will issue a letter stating that an agreement could not be reached.
  12. A mediation agreement is legally binding and, if not adhered to, the District or parents may request enforcement in any state court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States.
  13. If mediation is not successful and either party requests a due process hearing, the mediators will not willingly participate in any phase of the due process hearing.
Mediators

Through the mediation contractor, the Department maintains a list of qualified mediators who are impartial and trained in effective mediation techniques, as well as knowledgeable in laws and regulations relating to the provision of special education and related services. Mediators act as facilitators to assist parents and Districts in resolving a conflict.

If a mediator is not selected on a random basis from the list of qualified mediators, both parties must be involved in selecting the mediator and agree with the selection of the individual who will mediate. Mediators are selected on an impartial basis.

Mediation Requests

A request for mediation may occur when:
  1. The parents and District are unwilling or unable to modify their position without outside assistance.
  2. The parents and District, after making a good faith effort, face an impasse in attempting to resolve a conflict regarding the identification, evaluation or educational placement of the child or the provision of FAPE.
  3. Either a parent or the District has made a request for a due process hearing, or an administrative complaint investigation has been filed with the Department.
A parent, guardian, surrogate parent, or the District may make a telephone or written request for mediation. Requests for mediation should be made to:

Alaska Special Education Mediation Services
C/O Dave Thomas
P.O. Box 4750
Whitefish, Montana  59937
Telephone: 800-580-2209
Fax: 406-863-9229

Confidentiality


Discussions that occur during the mediation process are confidential and cannot be used as evidence in any subsequent due process hearing or civil proceeding. The parties in the mediation process will be required to sign a confidentiality pledge prior to commencement of the mediation session. This confidentiality requirement does not diminish a parent's right to obtain records under FERPA or either party's right to obtain information that would otherwise be subject to discovery.

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