; Information Guide No. 20 - How to use mediation services
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Information Guide No. 20 - How to use mediation services

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									Information Guide No. 20

How to use mediation services
What is mediation?
Mediation is a dispute resolution process facilitated by a neutral person or persons. Their role is to help the parties define exactly what is in dispute, consider other possibilities and agree on arrangements which will work better for each of them in the future.

When to consider mediation
You should consider mediation when you recognise clusters of the following indicators which are leading to the parties feeling frustrated or stuck: • the time spent on the issue is longer than anyone would reasonably expect • the number of participants at meetings is increasing dramatically so that there appears to be a proliferation of helpers • there is an increase in gossip and blaming language • intense emotional states are dominating your time and energy • there is a lack of motivation on the part of stakeholders to reach a conclusion • you are receiving contradictory information from stakeholders • increased spending is seen as the only solution • the same solution is tried repeatedly. Considerations: • There are other approaches to dispute resolution such as negotiation, conciliation and arbitration. Mediation is a dispute resolution option to be used after attempts at negotiation have been exhausted and the services of a third party facilitator are required. • Timing of the intervention is important (the best time is when each party has something to gain from the negotiation). • It is important to contact the preschool or school district superintendent if you are considering using mediation through Community Services. This is so the service can be monitored to ensure it meets preschool or school needs.

What is the role of the mediator?
The mediator is required to be: • neutral • impartial • competent • able to manage emotions • able to manage the process. The mediator seeks to assist the parties to take responsibility for resolving the dispute by: • encouraging the parties to speak for themselves • assisting the parties to identify their interest, concerns and options • supporting the parties in making their own decisions to resolve the dispute • addressing power imbalances.

What types of disputes can be mediated?
Examples include: • strained relationships between family and the education site concerning a student’s needs • fixed positions around an issue which is leading to all parties feeling stuck • disagreements concerning the identification, evaluation, educational placements or provision of appropriate public education of learners with disabilities.

Can mediation be made compulsory?
Mediation is consensual by intent, but may be impacted by a legal or coercive framework requiring the parties to attend mediation.

Adapted from Responding to concerns from parents and caregivers in DETE preschools and schools

Contact DETE’s Legislation and Legal Services Unit, phone 8226 1555, for assistance if mediation appears necessary. Ensure that the district superintendent is aware of the outcome of any discussions you have had with Legislation and Legal Services. A legal requirement cannot, however, force parties to participate in a certain way or reach a consensual agreement.

There are three metropolitan services: • Norwood Norwood Community Mediation Services 110 The Parade, Norwood, 5067 Phone: (08) 8362 1199 Fax: 8362 0410 The Norwood office is not able to deal with disputes regarding students with disabilities. • Christies Beach Noarlunga Community Mediation Service 40 Beach Road, Christies Beach 5165 Phone: (08) 8384 5222 Fax: 8384 5212 • Brompton (Western) Western Mediation Service 19 Green Street, Brompton 5007 Phone: (08) 8340 1982 Fax: 8346 9477 Western Mediation Service provides peer mediation training. Mediation services are available at: – Pt Lincoln – Mt Gambier – Kadina – Berri – Minlaton – Mt Gambier – Murray bridge – Port Pirie. Western Mediation Service can provide you with the details. The Yellow Pages contains an extensive list of trained mediators who charge on a sliding scale.

Is mediation confidential and binding?
Negotiations during the course of mediation will usually be and remain confidential. The agreement reached at mediation may or may not be confidential depending on the nature of the agreement and the need for disclosure for implementation and accountability. During mediation when an agency of the law (for example, a solicitor) is involved it may be appropriate for the proceedings to be discussed without prejudice which means statements made cannot be later used in a court of law. (See: ‘Mediation in special education,’ Card No. 8, Fair and reasonable: Disability Discrimination Act implementation kit, DETE, 2000.)

Where do I find a mediator?
District superintendents, social workers, and personnel counsellors in DETE provide mediation. Contact your group of District Offices for information. Personnel counsellors also provide professional development for staff members who want to work as mediators. Other DETE personnel in Special Education have received training in mediation. There has been some discussion about whether it is possible for departmental officers to work as mediators since they may not be seen as neutral by all the parties. Private providers also act as mediators and provide training in peer mediation. Community mediation is a useful and viable option for preschool or school disputes. There are some 50 trained volunteer mediators available to service areas up to 100 kms from the GPO. About 10 of these mediators have been teachers.

Who pays for mediation services?
Each preschool or school site must pay, unless staff negotiate with their district superintendent for financial assistance. Charges vary.

Bibliography
Department of Education, Training and Employment, ‘Mediation in special education’, Card No 8; and ‘Managing complex situations’, Card No. 7, Fair and reasonable: Disability Discrimination Act implementation kit, DETE, 2000.

Adapted from Responding to concerns from parents and caregivers in DETE preschools and schools


								
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