Date Published: May 14, 2018
Balsley, Angela

This qualitative research study was conducted to (1) identify the leadership actions special education directors took to increase cooperation and mitigate conflict between families and schools and (2) analyze what special education directors experienced after receiving requests for impartial due process hearings. The researcher organized interview data from 10 special education directors into themes informed by a micropolitical framework. Findings indicated that although alternative dispute resolution such as mediation assisted directors in resolving conflict, the proactive leadership actions of special education directors were even more critical to avoid requests for due process. Additionally, directors received requests for due process unexpectedly and reported that the use of alternative dispute resolution was unproductive after a hearing request was filed. During the settlement window, directors allocated scarce resources and encountered negative experiences with parent attorneys. Finally, most directors worked to settle the requests before they proceeded to a hearing. Based on the findings and implications of this study, three recommendations for practice included: (1) require a tiered system of alternative dispute resolution; (2) reduce the involvement of attorneys; and (3) build the capacity of special education directors to be proactive leaders. The researcher also recommended that future researchers study the effectiveness of resolution meetings and the role of the zealous advocate.