Jennifer Harris, Ombuds and Policy Analyst, Governor's Office of the Education Ombuds, Seattle, WA

This presentation makes the case for using ombuds to resolve conflicts in special education and features Washington State’s independent, state-level Office of the Education Ombuds(OEO) model. OEO encourages an approach to providing conflict resolution services that aligns systemic goals in special education with related goals to improve cultural competence, language access, non-discrimination and equity. OEO's model pursues these values primarily by facilitating parents and educators to be constructive, informed partners in reaching mutually-agreeable solutions for students with disabilities. As the first state education ombuds office in the country, OEO:

  • has developed a model for intervening as impartial third parties to resolve complaints and disputes across all areas of education;
  • gathers and track data annually;
  • reports this work to the public, education system, governor, and legislature; and
  • makes recommendations to reduce the state achievement gap and improve equity in Washington public schools.