Date Published: Dec 31, 2001
Consortium for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE)
Feinburg, E., Beyer, J., & Moses, P.

This paper describes causes of special education conflict and explores alternative conflict management approaches being pioneered by state education agencies and school districts. The focus is on early informal dispute resolution strategies as alternatives to due process hearings and mediation. Problems with both due process hearings and mediation are identified, especially how late in the conflict process these mechanisms are engaged under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Causes of conflict in special education are identified, including conflicts over design of special education services; conflicts over delivery of special education services; and relationship conflicts due to breakdowns in communication, trust, or cultural differences. Alternative strategies are grouped into: Stage 1--prevention strategies (participant and stakeholder training, a Stakeholders' Council, and collaborative rule making); Stage 2--disagreement strategies (parent-to-parent assistance, case managers, and telephone intermediaries); and Stage 3--conflict strategies (facilitation, mediation hybrid models, the prepared mediation conference, the ombudsperson, and third party opinion/consultation). Four appendices provide: (1) the regulatory provisions of mediation under IDEA '97; (2) a table comparing mediation and hearings; (3) a list of the advantages and limitations of early informal dispute resolution strategies; and (4) a chart giving examples of early dispute resolution strategies. (ERIC)