The California Department of Education (CDE) finds that the Alternative Dispute Resolution process is a desirable and effective practice that supports positive interactions and collaboration among parents and educators and the resolution of special education conflicts.
Since 1997, CDE has used IDEA Part B funds to provide ADR grants to special education local plan areas ( SELPA) to carry out specific statewide assignments related to ADR, as well as train and implement an ADR process in responding to and resolving local complaints and concerns regarding the implementation of the IDEA, Part B and relevant state laws. The ADR grant was awarded to the 10 lead SELPAs in California. This ADR grant remains in place today. In 2015, the ADR grant model expanded and offered the ADR-E grant to all interested SELPAs. Between 2015 and 2020, the number of ADR-E grant recipient SELPAs rose from approximately 67 to 110.
A 2018 survey of ADR grant recipients revealed that the greatest use of grant dollars was for the provision of professional development with some SELPAs focusing on specific aspects of ADR, such as “Collaboration and Communication” or “Conflict Resolution.”
In 2020, California expanded ADR work yet again to address COVID-19 and distance learning disputes. There were 113 SELPAs who applied for the ADR COVID-19 grant and all will receive the grant. These additional funds for the ADR COVID–19 grant are intended to be distributed equitably among applicant SELPAs, with grant amounts calculated based on a formula that considers the number of students with disabilities enrolled in each SELPA.
In addition to ADR COVID-19 grantees being required to enhance, augment, or develop their alternative dispute resolution process, they will need to address special education complaints filed by families related to COVID-19 and distance learning. Grantees are also required to submit a report to SSPI by April 1, 2021 that includes:
- The number of cases mediated through alternative dispute resolution services
- The number of cases totally resolved by agreement
- The number of cases refusing alternative dispute resolution services and requesting due process.
- A list of the issues that generated the request for dispute resolution services.
- Any recommendations for the workgroup developing the statewide Individualized Education Program addendum for distance learning template to ensure issues resulting from special education and related service delivery during the COVID–19 pandemic and distance learning are considered and addressed in the development of the addendum template.
The Napa County Office of Education facilitates a collaborative coop with the 10 lead SELPA ADR grantees and maintains a public resource directory on ADR processes, including a list of ADR coaches selected through an RFA process. Many grantees also attend the annual two-day SELPA ADR Conference and/or use grant funds to consult with or be trained by an ADR expert.
Each SELPA is responsible for promoting the ADR services they provide to their area.
Two hundred professional development sessions were provided in the 2017-2018 school year. The number of people trained exceeded 4,000 and at least 538 Compliance Complaints were avoided by the use of these interventions.
Participants, Activities, and Outcomes
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Participants in a 2018 survey of ADR grantees reported that the ADR money, “Prevented small conflicts from becoming large issues” and “Reduced due process significantly. Improved parent relationships.” Another respondent noted, “It has increased my SELPA’s ability to lower CDE complaints, litigious IEPs, and build trust with families in difficult IEPs.”