Mediation is a procedural safeguard to help resolve disputes between parents and schools. Mediation is basically a negotiation between parents and schools, when issues can not be resolved at an IEP meeting. There will not be attorneys involved, just an impartial person to hear both sides and help both parties navigate through the issues in order to come to an agreement.
Mediation is a voluntary process and both parties must agree to it. There are three phases in mediation. The first phase is explaining the ground rules to both sides and defining the issues at the core. This is fairly difficult as this is generally how they came to mediation in the first place. Once the issues have been clearly defined they can move into phase two. In phase two, negotiating solutions to the issues begins. Both parties have an opportunity to give their opinion as to how to solve the issues. This phase may be done individually with a mediator. It gives each side a chance to research their options and their legal rights. The mediator is required to maintain confidentiality to help guide both sides towards a resolution. Finally, in phase three, the written agreement is created. The agreement clearly defines the disagreements and the agreed upon resolution. There must also be a timetable of how the goals will be implemented; who is responsible for what and this legal document must be signed by both parties.
Mediators are trained to help parties communicate and reach a decision. A good mediator is able to help even the most difficult and hostile disagreements. If for some reason, mediation does not work and the parties still cannot come to an agreement, they are able to file for a due process hearing.