The purpose of this study was to determine if the process and outcome of mediation of disputes between Illinois parents and school administrators over special education issues were perceived to be a fair and satisfying alternative to the legally mandated conflict resolution process, the due process hearing. Emotional, time, and financial costs and improved understanding were specifically examined as they had been identified in the literature as problematic issues for the due process hearing. A previously developed questionnaire modified to address these questions was provided by Illinois mediators to the primary parent and school administrator participants for the 155 mediations conducted during one calendar year starting September 1, 1992.
Survey results were analyzed for thirty-four matched pairs of respondents. Findings from the study included: (1) Both parents and administrators indicated similar, but not generally correlated, favorable perceptions of both the mediation process and its outcome. (2) Participants did not report significant concerns over the mediation process regarding emotional, time, or financial costs. (3) Both groups perceived each side was able to communicate their concerns fairly. However, neither group thought the other side improved their understanding of the Individual Education Program, school records, or their rights. (4) No general effects were found for parents with regard to participant relationship to student, when mediation was requested, or number of mediations experienced. (5) No general effects were found for administrators for size of school, number of mediations experienced, or when the mediation was requested. Some effect was found for the perception of prevailing; more positive perceptions were indicated regarding the process and outcome of mediation if administrators responded that they felt they won or compromised than if they felt they did not prevail on most issues.
(Abstract by Author)