The ombudsman consults with school division staff, staff within the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), and other parties as needed. The ombudsman conducts informal fact-finding in order to facilitate resolution of issues, clarifies issues, and provides resolution options that conform to special education regulatory requirements. The ombudsman contacts school divisions directly for parents when necessary with the parents’ consent and consults with VDOE staff to develop cooperative strategies for informal complaint resolution for parents. The ombudsman is neither an advocate for any individual or organization but, rather, an advocate for fairness. In considering any given instance or concern, the interests and rights of all parties who might be involved are taken into account. The role of the ombudsman is an informal one in which there is a focus on listening and providing information and a discussion of issues and options, as well as referral to other services including mediation. Part of the function of the ombudsman is to encourage the parties to resolve issues at the lowest level in an organization through appropriate dispute resolution processes, by formal and informal means.The four key features of the ombudsman position are confidentiality, neutrality, informality and independence. The ombudsman does not disclose personal information, discussions and interactions. There is no formal complaint form or documentation and the ombudsman is independent.
The ombudsman maintains knowledge of special education statutes, regulations, policies, and procedures, local school division operations, and VDOE functions. The ombudsman should be skilled in communication, judgment/decision making, problem-solving/conflict resolution, agency organization and professionalism.