Justice afforded by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), is largely dependent on: 1) the parent’s and educator’s knowledge of the responsibilities and limitations under this law and others, and 2) the parent’s and educator’s ability to effectively advocate their respective positions for the student and work together productively to either prevent disputes or resolve them when they arise. While IDEA specifically requires the dissemination of “procedural safeguards” and school district personnel are specifically trained in special education, little importance is given to equipping and empowering both parents and educators work together productively in the student’s best interest. IDEA has progressively moved dispute resolution procedures “upstream” (from due process hearings, to mediation with due process hearings, to mediation apart from due process hearings, to resolution sessions), but has not yet progressed to specifically requiring IEP facilitation. Even so, some states have had the foresight to take on the charge and move their dispute resolution efforts “upstream” to IEP meetings. The next challenge is to properly prepare, train and empower both parents and educators to effectively work together at each step along the dispute resolution continuum. Lack of empowerment can relegate IDEA’s dispute resolution framework to an instrument of “second-class” justice for the student, a costly affair for schools, and a means for perpetuating serious problems such as discrimination, equal education opportunity, and disparity in race, sex, and national origin. We will challenge one another to utilize the framework provided by IDEA to in creative and productive ways so as to provide for a deep and lasting change in the educational experiences of all students with special needs.

CADRE's National Symposium on IEP Facilitation