Oftentimes, differences in opinion will arise between you and the school about what is best for your child. Luckily, parents always have “procedural rights”—the right to disagree with a school district’s decisions regarding their child’s education or well-being. To do so, you must go through certain channels which can include mediation, due process hearings or independent evaluations of your child.

No matter where you are in the IEP or 504 Plan process, you can exercise your procedural rights. When a parent does so and files a complaint, the school may request something called a “resolution” meeting. Resolution meetings are informal gatherings with the parent and a school official who can make important decisions regarding your child’s education, such as the Director of Special Education. There, you will try to resolve any relevant disagreements without involving any formal procedures.

However, a parent is allowed to choose “mediation” instead of a resolution meeting. If both parties agree, a state mediation session will be held in an effort to resolve the conflict before a due process hearing is necessary. The main difference between mediation and a due process hearing is that mediation is less formal and will not include an an Administrative Law Judge.

You may want to request mediation if: • You request that your child be evaluated for special education services, and the school denies your request;
• The school wants to change the services your child receives through their IEP or 504 Plan and you disagree with the change; or
• You believe your child needs additional services and the school district refuses to provide these services.

Once you request mediation, the school cannot change your child’s special education classification, placement, or services until the issue is resolved—this is called the “stay put” effect, and you should specifically request it in your written complaint if you wish to take advantage of it.

In the mediation session, you will be placed with two mediators from the New Jersey State Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). These mediators will be trained and impartial, and they cannot issue a decision like a Judge can. Instead, they seek to help parties come to an agreement by helping them define the issues and work through their conflict.

If mediation is successful and you reach an agreement, the mediator will write up the decision for both parties to sign. If this occurs, both parties must comply with the terms of the signed agreement. However, if mediation is unsuccessful, the mediator can request a due process hearing.

If you do not want to have a mediation session, as a parent, you can refuse to participate. If you still wish to move forward with your complaint, you or the school must file a request for a due process hearing. Before requesting mediation or a due process hearing, you may want to obtain legal advice. Susan Clark Law Group can help you navigate the mediation process and advocate for your child.

Contact us at the Susan Clark Law Group at 732-637-5248 for a free consultation.
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