When the parent and systems disagree about the education of a student with a disability, either of them may request mediation. The GaDOE has a set of mediators under contract. When mediation is requested, a mediator will be assigned from that list.
The Mediator is:
- An impartial or neutral person, called a mediator, who assists the school and the parent to clarify the problem, explore interests, discuss options, and reach a mutually agreeable solution.
- A neutral party who does not propose how to resolve the dispute, but works with the parent and the system in the development of their solution.
- Responsible for facilitating a written agreement, if the system and the parents are able to resolve the issue. The agreement should be documented in writing and signed by all parties. The written agreement is a legally binding agreement and is enforceable in any Georgia court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States.
- Responsible for providing an informal and collaborative approach to problem solving that can foster a positive working relationship between the system and the family.
- Trained in conflict resolution, collaborative problem solving and effective communication. In addition, mediators for special education are required to have knowledge and experience in the laws impacting the education of students with disabilities.
The rule for formal complaints can be found in the State Education Rules at 160-4-7-.12 Dispute Resolution.
Procedures for Mediation
- Either the parent and the student, or the system may request mediation
- The first step is to ask the other party if they are willing to mediate the disputed issues
- If a family member is requesting mediation, contact the system’s special education office and they will complete the request for mediation and submit it to the GaDOE
- The mediation request is faxed to GaDOE Special Education Services and Supports, 770-344-4458 or 404-651-6457
- Upon receipt, Special Education Services and Supports assigns the request to a mediator
- The mediator will contact both parties to develop the timeline, set up the meeting location and begin preparation
- Mediation will occur at a location and time convenient to both parties
- Once parties have agreed to a date and location, participants should be prepared to spend most of the day in mediation
- If a resolution is reached, the mediator will facilitate the agreement and all parties will sign the mediation agreement
- After mediation, both parties are expected to carry out the activities they agreed to during the mediation as outlined in the agreement since this is a legally binding document
- If mediation is being requested as part of a due process hearing, the mediation will not delay nor deny the right to a due process hearing. However, discussions during mediation cannot be used as evidence in any due process hearing or civil proceeding
Preparing for Mediation
- Be prepared to define the problem and explain any concerns
- Be prepared to state preferred resolutions
- Be prepared to share information that will help clarify and resolve the problem
- Be prepared to listen to the information and the point of view shared by others
- Be prepared to keep an open mind (there is often more than one solution to a problem)
- Be prepared to brainstorm with the other parties involved and develop a creative solution to the problem
Why Request Mediation
Requesting mediation will give you the opportunity to express your concerns regarding possible IDEA violations. Some of the benefits of the mediation process are: confidentiality, voluntary for both parties, occurs in a short period of time, provided at no cost, the process is less burdensome than a due process hearing or a formal complaint and high success rate for resolving issues.