18 Disp. Resol. Mag. 4 (2011-2012)
Collaborating for Our Children's Future: Mediation of Special Education Disputes

handle is hein.journals/disput18 and id is 122 raw text is: he parents of Lisa, a fifth-grader,
believe she should be eligible for
special education services due
to her learning disability. Her parents
have tried to establish her eligibility
for two years, but twice the school
district has said that Lisa is not
eligible for services. Lisa's parents
IM     eel strongly that eligibility
qe e is the only thing that will
ensure that the school
will be responsible for
meeting Lisa's needs. The
district special education
director says the current effort by Lisa's parents is terribly
misplaced and is offended that the care and attention the
school has given Lisa's education is going unnoticed. The
school psychologist says that Lisa's academic performance
is within normal limits for her age and grade. Using the
results from recent state tests and teacher reports of daily
class work, the district maintains that Lisa does not need
special education services. Both the parents and the district
are ready to go to a due process hearing on the matter.
The mother of Jamie, a fourth-grade student who
has mild cerebral palsy and developmental delays,
wants Jamie to attend her neighborhood school and
be in a regular education class. She is convinced that
Jamie learns best when educated with children who do
not have disabilities. While Jamie does not have any
behavioral problems, her mother is worried that she
will develop them. Jamie's mother threatens to file a
complaint accusing the district of violating the law. The
school district wants Jamie to stay at the district's special
education facility, certain that Jamie's current placement
is appropriate and that she could not be successful in a

regular education classroom. They base this opinion on
the severity of her disability and her need for individual
attention and instruction. The district also believes that
this placement meets the least restrictive environment
requirements of the law.
The parents and school district of Michael, an 8-year-
old who has autism spectrum disorder, are finding it chal-
lenging to reach agreement on an educational placement
for Michael for the upcoming school year. So far, Michael
has gotten all of his education and related services at
home. His parents do not feel that he is ready for an
education that is not home-based and are worried that
he will not be successful if he is mainstreamed with other
students. The parents want to continue his one-on-one
program at home and do not want to experiment by put-
ting Michael in a regular school setting. The school district
is concerned that if Michael continues to be educated
with one-on-one tutoring at home, he will miss important
social learning that can only happen by being with other
students. The district believes Michael is now ready to
be in school with his peers. Both the parents and special
education director agree to go to mediation to resolve
the matter.
These three situations are all based on real events,
and they each resulted in vastly differing outcomes.
In Lisa's case, the parents filed a due process complaint
that ultimately resulted in a hearing that, for both sides,
was costly in financial terms as well as long-term damage
to their relationship. Additionally, the school district
attorney believes the due process hearing officer's decision
was flawed and is contemplating filing an appeal in
federal court. The due process experience as a whole
- including filing the complaint, working within the
rigidity of the timeline, and not collaborating on a final
outcome - makes it difficult for Lisa's parents and the

4  SUMMER 2012   DISPUTE RESOLUTION MAGAZINE

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