Where Should You Start?

When problems or misunderstandings arise in special education, the first step is for educators or administrators to meet with the parents. Often, misunderstandings can be straightened out and a subsequent education team meeting may complete the process.

Talk to Your District

  • Some problems can be quickly resolved at the school your child attends.
  • Talk to your district’s special education director about your concerns.
  • If a parent objects to a proposed individualized education program (IEP) and requests a conciliation conference, the district must hold the meeting within 10 calendar days of the parent's request and provide information on other dispute resolution options.

The National Center on Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE) provides a series of videos designed to support effective collaboration between parents, educators and early childhood programs. View CADRE’s Working Together webpage to see the videos.

If you have held more than one meeting, and problems have not been resolved, you may want to consider mediation. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) provides special education mediation services at no cost to the district or parent. Mediation is voluntary and can be requested by the district or the parents. Download and complete a Request for Mediation Form and return it to us to begin the process.

What is Special Education Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary process where an impartial third person, a mediator, helps parents and districts resolve their disputes. The mediator works to keep the entire education team focused on your child’s needs, to improve trust and team communication, and assist the team in producing a special education program that everyone agrees upon.

Mediation saves time and money, and the process helps to repair relationships and create long-lasting agreements. Because a solution is not ordered by a complaint investigator or judge, but instead is mutually agreed on, the participants are generally more satisfied with the outcome.

What is the Difference between a Mediation and Facilitated Team Meeting?

  • Mediation - Mediation seeks to build positive working relationships, encourages mutual understanding, and helps the parties focus on their common interest–the student. An impartial mediator works with the participants to help them clearly communicate concerns, find common ground, and explore possible solutions to reach their own mutually agreeable resolution. Mediators help parties craft a formal agreement that is legally binding on the parties and can be used to amend an individualized education program.
  • Facilitated team meetings - An impartial facilitator leads an IEP, Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP), or multi-agency team meeting to promote effective communication and assist a team in developing an individualized education program.

Which Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Process Best Fits Your Student's Situation? 

Talk to an Advocate

Advocates are trained in special education processes. They can help families solve problems and understand what to expect in each process.

Who Participates in Mediation?

Mediation is an informal, problem-solving process and does not require the attendance of the entire IEP team. Typical participants include the parent(s), the student (if appropriate), educators who have direct experience with the student and knowledge of the student’s programs and services, and a district representative with decision-making authority.

What is the Mediator’s Role?

The mediator is impartial and does not make decisions or provide legal advice. Their role is to help the parties mutually agree on a solution to their issues.

A mediator helps the parties have a constructive, forward-looking conversation about the issues and leads a problem-solving session to find an acceptable resolution for all.

How Long Does the Mediation Process Take?

Once MDE receives a completed request form, the process takes approximately three weeks to complete. Mediation usually ends with a written agreement with the participants.
  • Request for Mediation Form - 8/29/18
    To request mediation, fill out this form electronically and return to MDE.
  •  - 9/22/16
    Frequently asked questions about mediation.
  • How to Prepare for Mediation - 8/24/12
    Suggestions of steps to take before mediation and brief overview of the mediation process.