The Contra Costa SELPA (Special Education Local Plan Area) offers a continuum of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) activities as an informal method for settling disagreements that may arise during IEP meetings. The Solutions Panel is just one practice. The Contra Costa SELPA uses a variety of options to promote understanding, open communication, and satisfying solutions to conflict that support and strengthen relationships. Our practice is designed to meet the interests of the parties involved that results in a crafted, mutually agreeable outcome, rather than living with a decision made by a third party, such as a hearing officer or judge.
At a scheduled session, each party gets to have their 'say' and listens to the other party's point of view. The Solutions Panel does not take sides, but acts as a neutral third party to ease the way to a solution. The parties work through a proven process to create their own written agreement. A voluntary signature signifies a commitment to uphold the resolution. If an agreement cannot be reached, either party may request local or state level assistance. Parent rights are not compromised. Everyone involved in the Panel process is bound by agreement and law to maintain confidentiality. If both parties agree, signed agreements can be legally binding on the parties. 85% of community panels have
resulted in agreements. 95% of these agreements have held for a year or more.
Trained and certified Solution Panel volunteers work with parties to find resolution. The panel is made up of a parent, a teacher/support staff, an administrator, and a community member, all from outside the school district.
Panels are provided at no cost. The expense of one panel is less than one hour of attorney time.
Panels are usually held within two to three weeks. Formal State level Due Process has a 45-day timeline. Use of a Solutions Panel approach does not delay the timeline for Due Process.
Panels are held at a site agreeable to both parties.