What is Mediation?

Mediation is a private meeting where two parties try to reach an agreement with the help of a trained professional who is not on either side. This person is called a mediator.  They are trained to guide parties toward an agreement that works for everyone!

It is a less formal option available to address complaints by parents.  It focuses on mutual problem solving through open communication, which can help strengthen working relationships between parents and service providers.

Mediation is a voluntary process that brings people together to resolve their disagreements. A mediator helps participants communicate with each other, so that everyone has an opportunity to express concerns and offer solutions.

Facts about Mediation:

Here are some facts about mediation:

  • A request for mediation may be made at any point without the necessity of requesting a due process hearing.
  • Mediation is voluntary and may only be used when both parties agree to do so.
  • A party may seek mediation to resolve disputes involving any matter under IDEA (Part B or Part C), including matters arising in a Due Process complaint.
  • Mediation cannot be used as a mandatory preliminary step prior to any other administrative or legal recourse.
  • Mediation may not be used to deny or delay a parent’s right to a Due Process hearing or to deny any other rights under IDEA (Part B or Part C).
  • Mediation is to be conducted by a qualified and impartial mediator who is trained in effective mediation techniques and knowledgeable in the law related to early intervention.
  • Mediators are selected on a random, rotational, or other impartial basis.
  • There is no cost to the parties for the mediation!  The State bears the cost of the mediation process, including the costs of mediation.
  • The mediator does not make decisions.  The parties must both agree to any decisions made.
  • Participants may leave mediation at any time.
  • Parties resolving a dispute through mediation must sign a legally binding agreement describing the resolution and:
    • states that all discussions that occurred during mediation are confidential and may not be used as evidence in any subsequent Due Process hearing procedure or civil proceeding in any Federal or State court; and
    • is signed by both the parent and a representative of the agency providing services (SoonerStart or School).
  • An individual who serves as a mediator:
    • may not be an employee of the SoonerStart Program or the School District that is involved in the provision of services to the child; and
    • must not have a personal or professional interest that conflicts with the person’s objectivity.
  • Mediation sessions are scheduled in a timely manner and held in a location convenient to the parties involved in the dispute.
  • Any agreements reached by all parties through mediation will be recorded in a written mediation agreement.
  • A written, signed mediation agreement is enforceable in any State court of competent jurisdiction; in district court of the United States; or by the lead agency.
  • If a parent chooses not to use the Mediation process, families will be given the opportunity to meet with an impartial party at a time and location convenient to the parent. This party may be under contract with a parent training and information center (the Oklahoma Parents Center), community parent resource center established in the state or with an appropriate alternative dispute resolution entity (Special Education Resolution Center) will coordinate this meeting and explain the benefits of and encourage the use of Mediation.
  • All discussions held during the mediation process are kept confidential.  The mediator may not be called as a witness in any future proceedings pertaining to the child.
  • An interpreter will be provided, if needed.  It is important that you understand and are able to participate fully in the mediation process.  Let everyone involved know if you need an interpreter.

Sources:  SoonerStart Early Intervention Operations Manual – revised March 2016.  Special Education Handbook – revised August 2017.

How do SoonerStart families (birth to 36 months) request Mediation?

  • In Person:  SoonerStart service coordinators are responsible for ensuring that the parent understands their options and the procedures to exercise one or more of them. The Service Coordinator will help the parent access the various dispute resolution options through the Regional Early Intervention Coordinator (REIC) who contacts the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
  • Phone:  Contact the Special Education Resolution Center (SERC) at 888-267-0028 or 918-270-1849.  The Oklahoma State Department of Education’s Special Education Services (OSDE-SES) contracts with SERC at Oklahoma State University (OSU) to manage the required processes for dispute resolution, including mediation.
  • Mail:  Download the Parent Agreement to Mediate and Request for Mediation form, complete, and submit to SERC, 9726 East 42nd Street, Suite 203, Tulsa, OK  74146.
  • Fax:  Download the Parent Agreement to Mediate and Request for Mediation form, complete, and submit to SERC, 918-267-2062.

The Special Education Resolution Center (SERC) has a mediation guide called “Mediation because…It’s really just about the kids!”

How do School-Age families (3 to graduation) request Mediation?

The Special Education Resolution Center (SERC) has a mediation guide called “Helping Schools and Parents Resolve Conflict.”

The OSDE-SES has a frequently asked questions page on their website.  Click here to visit!

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