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Special Education Mediation State Model. Inter-American Summit on Conflict Resolution Education Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Delaware. March 14, 2007 Presented by Fran Fletcher and Kathy Wian University of Delaware’s Conflict Resolution Program. About Delaware. TOTAL POPULATION @ 900,000

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Special education mediation state model l.jpg

Special Education MediationState Model

Inter-American Summit on Conflict Resolution Education

Cleveland, Ohio, USA


March 14, 2007

Presented by Fran Fletcher and Kathy Wian

University of Delaware’s Conflict Resolution Program

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About Delaware


White 75% - Black 20% - Other 5%

City of Wilmington 70,000►

New Castle County 520,000►

Kent County 140,000►

Sussex County 170,000►

2040 Square Miles

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Delaware Student Statistics

19 school districts

192 public schools

14 charter schools

and a variety of public and private programs

More than 120,000 public education students

*51% have a learning disability (9,897)

*11% have a cognitive impairment (2,193)

*10% have another health impairment (1,934)

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Conflict Resolution Program

Established 1994

University of Delaware

Self-sustaining office

Provide dispute resolution

services throughout DE

  • Education

  • State and Local Government

  • Nonprofits

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CRP First Steps

  • Conducted a statewide needs assessment re: dispute resolution in education

  • Offered customized dispute resolution trainings, facilitated problem solving, mediation, strategic planning and organizational development.

  • DOE first customers

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The Collaboration

University of Delaware’s

Conflict Resolution Program


Delaware Department of Education’s

Exceptional Children’s Team

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Special Education

Partnership for the


Resolution of


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The project supports addressing conflicts at the lowest possible level and build the capacity of parents and school personnel to address and resolve conflicts as they arise.

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Delaware Hearing Statistics*

Number of hearings requested & number of requests that were fully adjudicated:

2004-2005 - 32 requests, 8 decisions

2005-2006 - 11 requests, 4 decisions

2006-now - 17 requests, 2 decisions

What happened to the rest?

  • Mediation

  • Negotiated settlements

  • Voluntary or involuntary dismissals

    *Delaware Department of Education Statistics

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Open to all Requests

Mediation Overview

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Mediator Qualifications

  • Complete the 18-hour SPARC basic mediation training or its equivalent from a qualified trainer.

  • Complete the six-hour SPARC special education law workshop for hearing officers offered by DOE or an equivalent.

  • Participate in six hours of instruction, annually, in mediation and/or special education law.

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Mediator Qualifications

  • Demonstrate knowledge in the laws and regulations relating to the provisions of special education and related services.

  • Demonstrate effective mediation techniques with observation and feedback with an emphasis on facilitative process techniques and remain a neutral third party.

  • Must not hold primary employment with a local or state education agency.

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Mediation Evaluation


Actual Mediation Evaluation Results

Responses = 151

  • Did this mediation result in an agreement between you and the other party?

    Yes (125) No ( 20 ) Somewhat ( 1 ) No Answer ( 5 )

  • Overall, how satisfied were you with the results of mediation?

    Very Satisfied (19) Satisfied (114) Neutral (7) Dissatisfied (5)

    Very Dissatisfied (1) Not Sure (3) No Response (2)

  • Based on this experience, would you contact CRP and request mediation services for future special education disputes?

    Yes (122) No ( 2 ) Don’t Know ( 1 ) Maybe ( 1 ) No Response ( 25 )

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“Enhancing the Collaborative

Capacity of Individualized

Education Programs (IEPs)

in Delaware Schools”

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Research Methodology

  • Hired external consultant to work with CRP

  • Focus group data from past SPARC training efforts

  • Survey data from Special Education Supervisors

  • Additional 6 months of school assessments in five school districts

  • Observational and participant feedback data from IEP meetings

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Technical Expertise

Purpose/Goals of Meeting

Neutral, Encouraging Language

Student History/Performance



Use of the IEP Form

Special Issues


Questioning, Active Listening/Communication





Annual Goals/Objectives

Post-Meeting Follow Up

Action Planning

Consensus Building/Decision Making

Team Roles

Room set up & Seating

Mtg Debrief/Reflection/Eval

A/V Resources


Participation Formats

IEP Meeting Observation

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Research Findings

While requests for due process & mediation are minimal, anecdotal evidence from schools, families & family advocates suggests that collaboration remains elusive in special education.

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Research Findings

Limitations to collaboration in the IEP process present themselves throughout the perceived legalistic quality of required forms & safeguards, abbreviated IEP meetings, attendance by general & special education teachers who are not brought into the process & meeting facilitators untrained in basic collaborative processes.

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Research Findings

Limitations are further exacerbated when families & advocates are distrustful of the people & processes involved with IEPs or simply uncomfortable with the process.

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Ten Realistic Ways to Build Collaboration in Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meetings

Training and coaching provided through the

Special Education Partnership for the Amicable

Resolution of Conflict (SPARC)

a program of the Conflict Resolution Program

in cooperation with the Delaware Department of Education

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Introduction to the Mediation Process Education Program (IEP) Meetings

Facilitation 101

Your Conflict Management Style

Where do These Parents Come From?

Resolving Difficult Dynamics and Conflict in IEPs

Are You Hearing Me?

Brainstorming and Problem Solving?

Decision Making and Action Planning

A/V and the IEP

IEP Coaching

Nine Training Session Options

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W Education Program (IEP) Meetingshy would a room full of educated, caring professionals, who come together to focus on the welfare of a child, need a facilitator?

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Resolving at the Lowest Level Education Program (IEP) Meetings

IEP Facilitation

Resolution Meeting

Due Process

Keeping the Team Intact

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And, last but not least…. Education Program (IEP) Meetings

someone to manage the event.

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May / May Not Education Program (IEP) Meetings

be an IEP Team Member

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And the Facilitator is…. Education Program (IEP) Meetings




Neutral to the outcome

Fresh set of eyes

Addresses power imbalances

Manages “bad” behavior

and high emotion


Knows team members

Knows system

Anticipates problems & resolve

before meeting begins


Role confusion/expectation

No follow-up

No control over participants

or the system


Knows team members

Knows system

You are an employee

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Additional Advantages of Using an External Facilitator

  • Neutral Perspective

  • Ask “stupid” questions

  • Not tied to outcome

  • Agenda is inclusive

  • No dual roles

  • Power Imbalances

  • Deal with emotions

  • Full participation

  • Address “bad behavior”

  • Advantages to “taking the heat”

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The External IEP Meeting Facilitator Facilitator


  • A member of the team, therefore,

    does not, suggest, impose or participate in

    team decisions or solutions

  • A legal expert

  • An advocate

  • An arbitrator

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Teams May Request a Facilitator When… Facilitator

  • History

  • Communication

  • Requested

  • Apprehension

  • Focus

  • Multiple meetings

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IEP Facilitator Facilitator

Primary responsibility is to the process of the meeting rather than the content or outcome.

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Process Facilitatordeals with…


Problem solving


Agenda items

Gaining agreement




Contentdeals with…



Legal rights/the law







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Facilitator Qualities Facilitator





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Buy-in achieved Facilitator

Effective IEP is created

Trust is Built

Communication improves

Cooperative participation occurs

A fair and consistent process


Sustained IEP

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Mediation vs. IEP Meeting Facilitation Facilitator

  • The differences are…

  • The similarities are…

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University of Delaware Facilitator

Overview Per Year

2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-

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University of Delaware Facilitator

Impact on DP & Mediation

2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-

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School District Facilitator

Repeat Requests

Understanding Role

Realistic Time Frame

Asking for Assistance

School Requests


Repeat Requests

Understanding Role

Realistic Time Frame

Asking for Assistance

Parent Requests


  • Wait for Crisis

  • Team Preparation

  • Supporting All

  • Can’t Change

  • Follow Up

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IEP Meeting Facilitation Evaluations Facilitator


Actual IEP Meeting Facilitation Evaluation Results

Responses = 85

Goals of the meeting

Poor 1= ( 2 ) 2= ( 6 ) 3= ( 11 ) 4=( 27 ) 5 = ( 39 ) Good

(Conflicting; unclear; (Clear, shared by all,

diverse, unacceptable) endorsed with enthusiasm)

Content of the meeting

Poor 1= ( 5 ) 2= ( 9 ) 3= ( 16 ) 4= ( 26 ) 5= ( 29 )Good

(Not instructional; I did not (I learned a lot; was

learn much; not informative; informative; I’ll be able to

content; to use the content; content

too much process; not appropriate to our needs)

enough content)

Relationship among meeting participants

Poor 1= ( 6 ) 2= ( 9 ) 3= ( 22 ) 4= ( 23 ) 5= ( 25 ) Good

(My relationship with them is the (Our relationship is much

same as before; I feel antagonistic improved; I trust them more

toward many of them; I don’t than I did prior to the session;

trust them; there is little I feel I got to know & under-

potential for a future relationship) stand many of them better;

there is a good potential for

the future)

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Next Logical Step Facilitator

Training school and district personnel to run more effective IEP meetings.

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Intended Outcome: Facilitator

Trained personnel would become “in-house” resource

= share skills with team members

= facilitate challenging meetings


Trained personnel did not have time to incorporate

= no training occurred

= limited time to travel between schools

= changed jobs

IEP Training

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The New Hot Topic Facilitator


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Designing the System Facilitator





Retired School






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Lessons Learned Facilitator

  • Clear Policies & Procedures

  • Intervening Agency

  • How to Fund Requests

  • Districts Have Financial Investment

  • Advocacy Groups

  • People Just Want To Be Heard

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IDEIA 2004 Facilitator

Resolution Meeting:


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Policy Supports & Challenges Facilitator

Informal Policy Supports

  • DOE Staff and Director

    Formal Supports

  • IDEA

  • NCLB


  • New Federal and State Mandates

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Thank You Facilitator

Conflict Resolution Program

University of Delaware

177 Graham Hall

Newark, DE 19716

Website: www.ipa.udel.edu/crp

Fran Fletcher Kathy Wian

302-831-6812 302-831-2927

[email protected]@udel.edu