From time to time in the IEP process, conflict may arise. Let’s face it – not everyone on the IEP team is going to agree on everything all the time. You and the school may not see eye to eye on the amount of time needed for specialized instruction, or you may not agree with the type of instruction your child is receiving.
Whatever the issue is, it’s important to remember that although IEP team members may disagree, most (if not all) IEP team members do care for your child and want the best for him or her. So it’s best to assume team members have good intentions.
Tips for Conflict Resolution with the IEP Team
First, try to solve problems directly with your child’s IEP team and try to talk through the disagreement. Start by assuming that everyone in the room wants to help your child. Try take emotion out of the discussion. Use data and facts (like test scores and evaluation data) to explain your concerns. If you have documented all of your prior conversations and communications, use those items to build a timeline. This timeline helps show the school the history of the conflict from your perspective. Always require the school to respond to your concerns in writing, even if it is simply to summarize a spoken conversation.
If that doesn’t work, then you have more formal options to help resolve conflict. The first is mediation. You can represent yourself in mediation, or you can hire and attorney. In some states, you can hire a non-legal advocate. Research what mediation is like in your state on their department of education website.
Yet, if that doesn’t work, there’s the highest form of conflict resolution – a due process hearing. This is a highly formal process. It is wise to hire an attorney for this. In some states, a non-legal advocate can represent you. Whether you go alone or with support, due process allows a court to decide what is best for the child in terms of services on the IEP. You may not win your case, and you may not get any of your legal expenses covered even if you win.
While you are resolving any conflict, the school district must maintain current levels of service within the current IEP plan. This means the school cannot stop providing services while conflicts exist behind the scenes.
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