Conflict Resolution Strategies in Special Education Education Team: Fact Sheet All families want the best services and education possible for their child. Often in special education this results in conflict between families and school officials. IDEA requires that schools provide an “appropriate” education and services for children with disabilities. The term “appropriate” causes much debate and conflict between both parties. The practice of special education law is generally non-litigious. Data provided by the Florida Department of Education reveals that from July 1, 2005- June 30, 2006 there were only 177 requests for Due Process Hearings. Of those 177 requests, 135 requests did not proceed with Due Process Hearings because the matters were ultimately resolved through alternate dispute resolution strategies, including mediation sessions, resolution sessions and settlement agreements. There are several things to consider when deciding whether to litigate or not in special education: • Litigation may ensure the end of all conflict • Litigation may improve relationships between families and school personnel • Litigation may increase acrimony between the parties and may result in retribution against the child • Mediations and resolution sessions are better alternatives to resolving problems • Mediation and resolution sessions are quicker, less formal proceedings that may foster less acrimony between the parties • 87% of all Due Process Hearings nationally are won by districts • Only 13% of Due Process Hearings nationally are won by the families • Long process (child often languishes in an inappropriate placement or with inadequate service) • Emotional process • Costly for families (IDEA does not allow for families to recover expert witness fees even if the families are victorious and attorneys fees are recoverable only if there is a final order in favor of the families) • Some Administrative Law Judges presiding over Due Process Hearings are inadequately trained The Advocacy Center’s education team supports the notion of investigating and providing direct assistance to families. Assistance typically consists of working with families and school districts to negotiate a “win-win” situation for both parties involved. Resources for Families: Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities: www.advocacycenter.org Wrights Law: www.wrightslaw.com Florida Department of Education: www.fldoe.org Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In Authors: Roger Fisher and William Ury The Parents’ Complete Special Education Guide: Tips, Techniques and Materials for Helping Your Child Succeed in School and Life Authors: Roger Pierangelo and Robert Jacoby From Emotions to Advocacy Authors: Pam Wright and Pete Wright IDEA 2004 Authors: Pam Wright and Pete Wright This publication is provided as general information and is intended as a general reference source for persons with disabilities and their advocates. This information is not meant to create an attorney-client relationship or provide legal counsel. Before acting or refraining from acting, please seek legal advice from a licensed attorney. The Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities, Inc. has used its best efforts in collecting and preparing material included in this publication, but does not warrant that the information herein is complete or accurate, and does not assume, and hereby disclaims, any liability to any person for any loss or damage caused by errors or omissions herein, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident or any other cause.
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