When school and family are deadlocked over an IEP, the recently updated Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires mediation be tried before calling a due process hearing. The IDEA is the law that governs special education. (See "A New IDEA.")
Run by a neutral person trained in conflict resolution and special education law, mediation can be both economical and effective. It allows emotions to be vented without damaging relationships, gets past blame, focuses on the child, and inspires creative solutions. The mediator doesn’t judge or decide the case, but helps both sides reach a mutually satisfying agreement.
Mediation is free to families and no attorney is necessary, although families may choose to bring one. If no agreement is reached in mediation, the case goes forward to a due process hearing. In other words, there’s nothing to lose and potentially everything to gain through this process.