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When You are in Mediation, You are Negotiating

by Pam Wright

We are about to go into mediation and have concerns and questions about the process.

Q: Can parents tape record the meeting? If the district will have an attorney present at mediation, can one be appointed for the parent, at no charge?

Mediation is a problem solving process that is confidential. Success depends on both parties being able to communicate openly. The parties cannot use information gained in mediation in later litigation, so the answer is “No.” People should not attempt to tape record mediation. If there is litigation later, a judge will come down hard on them for violating the confidentiality of mediation.

There is no legal requirement that an attorney be appointed for a
parent at no charge.
I would suggest you contact the state P & A office –
their mandate is to represent the interests of people with disabilities. You can find your state P & A office in your state directory on the Yellow Pages or use the National Disability Rights Network Directory.

Q:  What can we do to feel less anxious and intimidated?

Parents need to prepare for mediation as they should prepare for any important meeting or event. You need to be able to state what you want and why, and provide any documentation or evaluation that supports your requests. When you prepare, you will understand what mediation can and cannot do. If you prepare, you will feel less anxious.

Mediation is not a formal legal process like a due process hearing.
People use mediation to resolve disputes of almost any kind – between neighbors, between landlords and tenants, between spouses.

The purpose of mediation is to provide a way for people to discuss
their concerns openly, without fear that what they say will be used
against them. When you are in mediation, you are negotiating.

I recommend that you read “Getting to Yes.” The first
edition is less than 100 pages. Every time I open Getting to Yes, I
learn something new or relearn something I forgot.

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11 Comments on "When You are in Mediation, You are Negotiating"


since 3 son has had and i.e.p and a para, 1:1 or 3:1, now at a voke high school and has made a miraculous recovery, and I was told, no i.e.p. No diag. no services, “what are you going to do pull magic out of the air?” quoted by the sped director. entire room was excused and told “we are outta here. because “she wasnt doing this anymore” I informed her her hostility and unprofessionalism needed to be removed from the meeting and we needed to focus on the i.e.p which they let lapse. then tried to give me a 30 day notice of no iep, also plan to discontinue in other documentation. at end of school year. i now have an advocate. Pulled magic out of the air. new dx of aspbergers and pdd. evaled by speech therapist and have a mediator from the state, Im afraid they are still going to take iep away, gets good grades with help,


Yes I agree, keep copies of email, letters, a time frame and meetings with school administration.


A reminder. As always, document, document, document. In this state, a violation of a mediation agreement is considered failure to provide FAPE. School attorneys will tell the school that a hearing officer will rule against them unless they can prove a good faith attempt to provide everything they signed for.

It is always important to keep documenting conversations. Write letters of understanding. Keep notes in a way that is organized and accessible. This is a good area to use the “Columbo” approach. “I don’t understand. The agreement says this. This is what is happening instead. Can you help me understand?”

I agree that when the verbal agreements are put in writing, things can start to shift. That is why when during a mediation a verbal agreement is made, I ask “How is this going to be phrased in the agreement?”