Alternate Dispute Resolution

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, or (IDEA), students with disabilities are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education, or (FAPE). Parents of students with disabilities and school districts sometimes disagree as to what services are appropriate. While it is best to discuss disagreements and make attempts to resolve them at an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting, sometimes that's not possible. Alternative resolution options are available for parents who want to dispute an IEP team or school district’s decision regarding a student’s education. There are three methods available in Florida:  1) mediation, 2) state complaint, and 3) due process hearing. Click on the tabs to learn more.

Mediation

  • Mediation is available to parents of students with disabilities who disagree with a decision made by a school district involving any matter related to a proposal or refusal to initiate or change the student’s identification, evaluation, educational placement, or the provision of Free and Appropriate Public Education. 
  • Mediation is free to parents.
  • Parents can apply for mediation by contacting the Florida Department of Education and submitting a Request for Mediation form.
  • Mediation must be voluntary on the part of both parties.  That is, both the school district and the parent must agree to use mediation as a way to resolve the dispute.
  • Mediation cannot be used to deny or delay a parent’s right to a due process hearing (explained below).
  • The mediator must be a qualified and impartial mediator who is trained in effective mediation techniques. 
  • Mediation must be held at a time and location that is convenient to the school district and the parents. 
  • If the parties reach an agreement during mediation, the parties can execute a written and legally binding agreement enforceable in any State court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States.
  • Mediation is confidential so any statements made during mediation may not be used as evidence in subsequent due process hearings or civil proceedings.