Lawyer Monthly - July 2022

SafeguardsandRecourse: Unfortunately, Section 504 does not provide specific procedural safeguards to protect the rights of the parent or the child. If a parent believes their rights or the child’s rights provided under Section 504 have been violated, the parent can file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. A large part of your practice includes litigation and conflict resolution practices in the education field. How is conflict resolution used in special education cases? The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides the opportunity for exceptional students to receive special education services from K-12. During the processes of determining a student’s present levels of performance, deficits, curriculum accommodations and modifications, related services, and the educational placement for instruction, students and families are required to have several meetings and interactions with schools through a student’s matriculation. When there is not a consensus on what a student requires to access the curriculum, or what services are required to provide a student with FAPE, students and schools often turn to the court system to litigate these matters or file complaints with their State Department of Education. As families and schools continue down a path of contentious litigation, their relationships are often damaged and their trust is so fractured that it prevents cooperation in future meetings, which causes the parties to become lost in a cycle of endless litigation and dysfunction. Fortunately, this pattern has not gone without notice from the Federal and State Departments of Education. These agencies have developed several conflict resolution practices and make them available to schools, students, and families free of charge very early in the litigation process. Facilitated IEP Meetings Facilitated IEP Meetings use third-party neutrals to direct the IEP meeting and keep the conversation focused on a specific set of desired outcomes developed by the meeting participants. Through the use of visual charts and a pre-set agenda, facilitators design a meeting process that ensures productive communication and which often focuses on producing an IEP by the end of the meeting. While the facilitated IEP meeting process can be utilised throughout various points of litigation, the process is most commonly used prior to the actual commencement of litigation to resolve the matter prior to seeking court intervention. Although facilitated IEP meetings often do result in agreement, the use of a facilitator during the IEP meetings is voluntary and does not require the participants to develop an IEP during the meeting; nor does it prevent the filing of a complaint or requesting a due process hearing. However, as research has shown that this is an effective conflict resolution process to diffuse potential litigation, many state Departments of Education encourage participants to attempt to resolve their issues through the use of facilitated IEP meetings and will often appoint a specially trained facilitator to run an IEP meeting at no cost to the participants. WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM | JUL 2022 MY LEGAL LIFE - NICOLE HULL 20

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