Written by Gaynelle Franklin, NFHF’s Inclusive Education Specialist
I have had the pleasure of working with Northshore Families Helping Families as an Inclusive Educational Advocate for the past two and a half years. During this time I have encountered times when the schools and parents were unable to agree on matters that concerned a child’s IEP. When this happens all parties work very hard to resolve the situation as soon as possible. The child’s wellbeing is always the main focus.
There are several ways that resolutions can be done.
One way is for the parent to file either a formal or informal complaint with the Louisiana Department of Education. The LDE immediately refers the dispute back to the parish for an Early Resolution Meeting. The hope is that the problem will be solved during this meeting as all involved parties try to come to an agreement. There is give and take from both the parents and the school system. If an agreement is not reached during this meeting, the dispute falls back in the hands of the LDE. At this point there can be either mediation or a state facilitated IEP. Both parties must agree to either of these meetings.
Mediation is a way to resolve this disagreement with the help of an impartial third person trained in mediation techniques. The mediator does not make decisions. He or she only facilitates the discussion and decision-making.
A state facilitated IEP is similar to mediation, however the focus is strictly on the IEP. This step puts the IEP meeting in the hands of a person who is not involved with either the school system or the parent. This process is unbiased and only focuses on what is best for the child.
At this point the dispute is hopefully resolved, but in the event that it is not settled it now goes to the part of the dispute resolution where a decision is made by the state department’s legal office. This is referred to as a formal complaint where the state comes in, investigates then makes a ruling.
The last resort is the due process hearing. This is a formal proceeding in which the evidence is presented to an independent hearing officer to resolve the dispute. This is the point where the lawyers from both sides get involved. A decision is made and both parties must abide by the decision.
If you would like to learn more information on this topic Northshore Families Helping Families is holding a workshop “Options for Resolutions of Special Education Disputes” scheduled on October 9th from 6 to 8 PM in Covington. Contact our center by calling 985-875-0511 or click HERE to reserve your seat at this one of a kind workshop!