When a disagreement or dispute
arises between the parent(s)/guardian(s) and the school district, it is
to the advantage of both parties to resolve the dispute at the lowest
level and in a timely manner. Special Education Administrators and parent(s)/guardian(s)
can anticipate that when a hearing request or complaint is filed at the
state level, the SELPA is available to offer Alternative Dispute Resolution
(ADR) services to both parties. Our goal is to remain focused on the needs
of the student while offering supports to parents and district administrators.
It is important to note that parent(s)/guardian(s) have the right to request
an impartial due process hearing regarding the identification, assessment,
and educational placement of their child or the provision of a free and
appropriate public education (FAPE. Parents may also file a state compliance
complaint when they believe that a school district has violated federal
or state special education laws or regulations. Within sixty days after
a complaint is filed the California Department of Education will carry
out an independent investigation.
The law gives us the responsibility for ensuring that a parent not only
receives their rights but also is trained and understands them. We should
provide a copy, reference their existence and reinforce their meaning
at every opportunity. We should document at each IEP meeting that the
Notice of Procedural Safeguards/Special Education Rights of Parents and
Children were reviewed, or that the parents declined the district's offer
to review them.
Basic Components of
- Records Review
- Evaluation Procedures
- Participation in Meetings
- Informed Consent
- Due Process
Alternative Dispute Resolution
The Contra Costa SELPA Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program grew
from a commitment to a partnership with families of students with special
needs. We believe that disputes are best resolved by the people involved
in them. Turning decision making power over to a third party causes both
families and districts to abdicate responsibility for program improvement.
The Contra Costa SELPA offers a variety of options which allow the parties
directly involved in the dispute the opportunity to create a mutual and
long-lasting agreement. In addition to the cost and time savings, relationships
between the parent and district are maintained or even enhanced. The ADR
program continues to grow with additional options for informal mediation
and personal skills development in communication and mediation.
||People hold different points
of view and their needs appear to be incompatible
||People don't believe it is possible
to reach agreement
||Each participant or side advocates
for its position in a win/lose fashion
The options described below may be available to respond
to the needs and concerns raised by a conflict.
Resource parents who are sanctioned by the district and trained by the
SELPA provide parent-to-parent support. Parents of students with special
needs volunteer to provide support and facilitate communication as Resource
Parents. They also assist SELPA and districts with parent-professional
collaborative efforts to improve services. After participation in twelve
hours of training in communication, problem solving, the IEP process
and role definition, Resource Parents are available to serve school
districts. They provide consultation to other parents and may attend
IEP meetings when requested. If a district does not have available trained
Resource Parents, they can identify individuals to participate in the
SELPA Resource Parent Training. Trained Resource Parents can be reached
through the special education office in each district, or call the SELPA
office for a current list.
Program specialists employed by the SELPA assist Local Education Agencies
(LEAs) and parents in securing appropriate placements for students.
Out-of-district placements, staff development, preparation for transition,
and service to students are their primary functions. Program Specialists
are trained in the fundamentals of ADR, communication, collaboration,
and relationship building. They utilize these skills at the IEP level.
Their experience as credentialed special education providers is valuable
to the parents and school staff in planning and placement.
The program specialist provides a placement bridge between program providers.
Program specialists can conduct Facilitated IEPs when the IEP process
needs a more formal structure and a neutral person to assure the process
Dispute Resolution Coordinator
The SELPA Dispute Resolution Coordinator is available to districts and
parents for consultation around a variety of issues relating to assessment,
identification, placement and services to individuals with exceptional
needs. The Coordinator can also provide technical support and assistance
to districts in working more effectively with students and families.
If parents are not successful in reaching a satisfactory agreement at
the site level and have already contacted the director of special education
in their district or the SELPA program specialist, they may call (925)
827-0949 x24 to speak to the Coordinator of Dispute Resolution for Contra
Costa SELPA. The Coordinator will use the information provided to determine
which ADR activity or resource would best address the situation.
Facilitated IEP Meetings (FIEP)
A Facilitated IEP places additional ground rules on the participants
and requires open, receptive participation of the of all team members.
A facilitated IEP meeting is one in which an IEP is developed by a collaborative
team whose members share responsibility for the meeting process and
results. Decision-making is managed through the use of essential facilitation
skills. The process of facilitation enables the team to build and improve
strong relationships among team members, reach true consensus, focus
the IEP content and process on the student.
What are Facilitated IEP
- FIEP meetings utilize a specific format
and a trained facilitator to guide IEP teams in developing an
appropriate, compliant, and effective IEP.
- FIEP meetings maximize collaborative,
consensus-based decisions that focus on the needs of the child.
- FIEP meetings are designed to improve
interaction, participation, and relationships between parents
and educators that benefit the child.
What will happen in Facilitated
- The facilitator will assist the team
in setting and prioritizing an agenda, and honoring it.
- The facilitator will focus attention
on the strengths and needs of the student.
- The facilitator will assure that all
the necessary components of an IEP are included.
- The facilitator will encourage the full
participation of each IEP team member and assure that their
contributions are considered.
- The facilitator will manage the communication
to avoid emotional conflicts and irrelevant review of non-IEP
- The IEP Team will develop a consensus-based
plan for the student that both the family and the district will
How do I get a trained
facilitator for an IEP meeting?
- Contact your SELPA program specialist
first. If they cannot facilitate the meeting, call the SELPA
Coordinator for Dispute Resolution who has a list of all persons
in the SELPA who have been trained in the Essential Facilitation
for the IEP Meeting Process method. ADR Coordinator: 925-827-0949
Solutions Panels are available to assist districts and parents in reaching
a mutually agreeable solution. A Panel is composed of 2 to 4 trained
facilitators (usually parents, administrators, service providers and
community representatives) who volunteer their time to assist parents
and districts. There is no cost to either district or parent and the
panel can usually be in place within two weeks from the time of the
request. This has proven to be a more cost-effective approach to settling
disputes than formal, state-level due process hearings. Panel can be
used either before or after a Due Process Hearing has been requested
by either party. The Solutions Panel process is more satisfying than
legal action. It is faster than due process and less costly than other
dispute resolution methods. Panels are scheduled to be convenient for
both parties. All matters are confidential. Agreements signed by both
parties are legally binding. It is the goal of the process to develop
a collaborative working relationship between parents and district personnel.
What happens at a Solutions Panel Meeting?
The panel members describe the process and the "ground
The parent describes the concerns, uninterrupted by
the district, using as much time as necessary. The panel members ask
questions for clarification.
The district representative describes the district's
concerns, uninterrupted by the parent, using as much time as necessary.
The panel members ask questions for clarification.
The panel members ask each party to describe the other
party's position as they understand it. Panel members or the other
party may clarify as necessary to make sure that both parties fully
the other's interests and concerns.
Panel members assist the parties to "brainstorm"
possible solutions or contributions.
Panel members assist the parties to select options
that they could agree to.
Panel members assist the parties to write an agreement
that will become binding when signed.
Administrative File Review
SELPA staff will conduct an administrative file review at the request
of a district or parent. The review provides a structured evaluation
of the chronological facts and required documentation in a student's
file. The goal is for the SELPA to provide insight into any procedural
errors that may affect a student's right to a free, appropriate, public
education, and to give the district or parents information on how to
remedy the situation. The SELPA staff does not offer legal advice to
either parents or districts, but may direct the parties to seek technical
advice from attorneys when necessary.
The reauthorization of IDEA 2004 added an opportunity for districts
to meet with parents following the filing of a request for due process
hearing and prior to the hearing itself. The resolution meeting is the
district's opportunity to clarify and understand the parent's position
in the case and develop an offer that may eliminate the need for the
hearing. The meeting must be scheduled within 15 days of receipt of
the filing and should include only the individuals relevant to solving
the problem. Parents may bring an attorney if they choose. Districts
may not bring an attorney unless the parents indicate that they will
bring an attorney. Parents cannot "waive" this meeting, but
they may request that it not be held. If the district agrees with this
request, the meeting is not required. At the request of the district,
Contra Costa SELPA will provide a trained facilitator to assist with
the meeting. The facilitator will require the district to provide a
copy of the Due Process Hearing Request and a copy of the district's
response in advance of the meeting. From these documents, the facilitator
will construct a visual representation of the allegations, the requested
remedy for each allegation, and the district's response to each. At
the meeting, the facilitator will review the points and ask for any
clarification or elaboration on each point. When that is complete, the
facilitator will ask the parent and the district to prioritize the lists
of allegations and remedies and look for areas where issues can be resolved
prior to hearing. If agreements can be reached, they will be written
and signed. IEP issues will be remanded to an IEP meeting for review
and remedy. The written agreement can be voided by the parents within
3 days if they choose.
| Did You Remember to
Include in Your Written Agreement
- Effective dates?
- Agreement on assessment?
- Agreement on goals?
- Agreement on services?
- Agreement on placement, including extended
- Agreement on compensatory services? (if
- Agreement on reimbursements? (if discussed)
- Agreement that settlement resolves all
claims, or list of things that are not settled?
- Agreement on how communication regarding
changes in program will be handled?
- Agreement that settlement has been read,
understood and voluntarily signed by both parties
The district must notify the Office of Administrative
Hearings of the Resolution Meeting outcome as soon as it becomes valid.
The OAH has a form for this.
Issues that are not resolved in this meeting will
move forward to state mediation and possibly a Due Process Hearing.
20 USC 1414(a)(1)(D)(i)(l)
20 USC 1415(b)(6)
34 CFR 300.504
34 CFR 300.152
34 CFR 300.300
Click here to download and print: Procedures Guide-Dispute