Clearly identified conflicts may be effectively addressed through utilization of capable third parties. These collaborative conflict resolution options are characterized by interest-based problem solving.

Facilitation is a voluntary process that can be used when parties in an IEP, IFSP or other meeting agree that the presence of a neutral third party would facilitate communication and problem solving. It is most often used when there is a history of contentious interactions between the family and school, the participants anticipate that they will be unable to reach agreement on critical issues, or when a meeting is expected to be particularly complex and controversial. Facilitators often serve as special education mediators in their state and have received additional training beyond that which they received to become mediators. Additionally, many school districts have specially trained staff members to serve in their own schools, districts or regions, or to assist in others, to more effectively facilitate problematic IEP meetings. 


This voluntary process uses a Resolution Facilitator, a person trained in mediation, to help resolve issues impartially and at the earliest level. Each Area Education Agency (AEA) has a designated person who serves in this role. This process may be requested when disagreements arise between school officials and parent over educational issues.  A Resolution Facilitator may be either an individual from within the school district who is considered neutral to the conflict or an individual selected from outside the district in which the conflict has occurred, but is not assigned by the state. The conflict or concerns may involve general education, Section 504, special education, Early ACCESS, or any issue involving a school setting. The conflict may be between educators and parents, educators and educators, or any other employee hired by the district or AEA. There are at least four options that may involve a Resolution Facilitator:

  • Some type of conflict which could lead to mediation
  • An IEP meeting should there be a potential for an adversarial meeting
  • A “resolution meeting ” after a parent has filed a due process hearing notice to the district and AEA (and which must be addressed within 15 days)
  • Any other type of meeting to serve as a facilitator when conflict may be anticipated

A Complaint Assistance IEP (CAIEP) meeting is an IEP meeting that is facilitated by the representative of the public agency who directs special education programs within the public agency, and who has decision-making authority on behalf of such agency. This special type of IEP meeting is intended to provide parents with an opportunity to discuss disputed IEP-related matters, and to provide the public agency with an opportunity to address and resolve their concerns.

An FIEP is an option available at the request of schools and parents for conflict prevention and resolution. This service is provided at no cost to parents or schools. A trained impartial professional (facilitator) helps the case conference committee with the IEP process.

Facilitated Individual Education Program (FIEP) Meetings are IEP meetings that are led by an independent facilitator and are designed to help the team overcome the pressures and challenges of a potentially contentious meeting.
The Facilitated Individualized Education Program is designed for parents and school districts in order to resolve a dispute. The role of an IEP Facilitator is to ensure that the IEP Team does their best thinking, interacts respectfully, the perspectives of all participants are heard, and the IEP team focuses on future action.
When parents or school representatives are apprehensive about the next IEP meeting, or it is a complex meeting with numerous participants, or communication between home and school is becoming tense, an impartial facilitator can be requested to assist the IEP team members in communicating more effectively, keeping the focus on student outcomes, and developing compliant IEPs.
IEP team meeting facilitation is a voluntary process, at no cost to the parties, that can be used when the parties to an IEP meeting agree that the presence of a neutral third party would assist them in communicating and in the successful drafting of an IEP for a student.
A facilitated IEP meeting is an IEP team meeting that includes an impartial facilitator who promotes effective communication and assists an IEP team in developing an acceptable IEP. The facilitator keeps the team focused on the proper development of the IEP while addressing conflicts that arise.
Facilitation is a voluntary process during which a neutral facilitator helps IEP team members communicate effectively and efficiently at IEP team meetings.
Facilitation refers to the use of specialized skills to run a meeting in a fair, inclusive and organized fashion. It can be used in any IFSP or IEPT. A meeting leader may employ facilitation skills or a neutral third-party facilitator may be asked to do so.
IEP facilitation is all about the student and helping the IEP team overcome the pressure and anxiety often associated with a contentious meeting. The facilitator makes sure that the focus of the team remains on the best interests of the student. The facilitator’s primary goal is to assist team members in the thoughtful, productive construction of a quality individualized educational program.
Facilitation of Special Education IEP Meetings is a free service provided by the Bureau of Special Projects, Office of Special Education upon request by a district or parent.
Facilitation of Special Education Team Meetings is a free service provided by the Bureau of Special Education upon request by a district or parent. Both parties must agree to have the facilitator attend the meeting. A trained facilitator is sent by the Bureau to attend and conduct a regular Special Education Team meeting scheduled and arranged by the district.
The SDE offers the IEP team a neutral thrid party to encourage communication, participation, and problem solving by all team members.
IEP facilitation is a new dispute resolution method developed by the Louisiana Department of Education. This option is available to parents and school districts when they both agree that it would be valuable to have a neutral person, such as an IEP Facilitator, present at an IEP meeting to assist them in discussing issues regarding your child's IEP.
A facilitated IEP meeting is an IEP meeting that includes an impartial facilitator who promotes effective communication and who assists the IEP team in developing an acceptable IEP. The facilitator keeps the team focused on the proper development of the IEP while addressing conflicts that arise.
IEP facilitation is a voluntary process that can be used when all parties to an IEP meeting agree that the presence of a neutral third party would help facilitate communication and the successful drafting of the student’s IEP. 

San Joaquin County SELPA develops and provides Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) strategies and training to its staff since 2000 as part of a grant from the state.

The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) Office of Special Education Services (OSES) provides informal dispute resolution assistance to families and schools as they address concerns related to programming for students with disabilities.

When IEP teams reach an impasse or meetings are expected to be contentious, an independent (external) facilitator, who is not affiliated with the team or school district, may help guide the process. The external facilitator keeps members of the IEP team focused on the development of the IEP and will foster effective communication in order to complete the development of a high quality IEP.
IEP Meeting Facilitation is made available upon the request of parents or districts. IEP Meeting Facilitation assists teams in the effective development of an Individualized Education Program.

In 2013, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) recognized the need for more options to 1) prevent IEPs from moving into contentious and costly dispute processes, and 2) improve outcomes for students. As a result, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Board was formed to explore possible options. Ultimately, IEP Facilitation was the highly promising practice that Colorado decided to pursue.

CDE now offers state-sponsored IEP facilitations as well as trainings for IEP team members interested in improving their conflict resolution and facilitation skills. For more information on these trainings for IEP team members, see their Stakeholder and Participant Training Continuum Practice.

Having IEP team meetings facilitated by an independent, trained “facilitator” is rapidly becoming a popular means for parents and school personnel to reach agreement in the educational decision making process for students needing or suspected of needing special education services.
Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting facilitation services are available to assist IEP teams when they find themselves at an impasse, experience a breakdown in communication, or are trying to proceed in an acrimonious climate.
In Texas, the Texas Education Agency has approached IEP facilitation by providing support and grants for regional educational service centers to implement a plan specific and customized to the geographical region.
The Facilitation system is a process utilizing an impartial, neutral facilitator to guide the process of the meeting and to assist members of the IEP team in communicating effectively.

Some States and LEA's offer a mediation model that is different than what IDEA requires. These approaches include panel or team mediation where two or or more mediators are used. Other models might include med/arb where a mediator becomes, with the support of the participants, a decision maker if they reached impasse. Also, online or cyber mediation is being used with increased frequency. 


The Special Education Services Department of the San Francisco Unified School District has partnered with The Bar Association of San Francisco to offer a new way to resolve complaints with the school district regarding the learning needs of your child.  Professional facilitators through the Bar A

An AEA mediator may be used to help settle difference between parties. This person may be someone who is considered neutral to the disagreement, from within the AEA or from another AEA. This person is not assigned by the state, as in the other options.

When parents feel that they want a neutral third party to hear their concerns, informal local mediation is always available.

This strategy, called a Solutions Team, is designed to build a safe, collaborative working relationship by fostering communication between families and school personnel.

The Contra Costa SELPA (Special Education Local Plan Area) offers a continuum of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) activities as an informal method for settling disagreements that may arise during IEP meetings. The Solutions Panel is just one practice.

The Solutions Panel is part of the El Dorado County SELPA ADR model. Rather than living with a decision made by a third party, such as a judge or hearing officer, the parties craft their own agreement.

The Solutions Panel process was developed in response to the growing need for a better way for families and schools to resolve their differences around special education issues. 

An ombudsperson is generally a third party who investigates complaints, proposes solutions, and negotiates with all parties. 


This strategy is a resource available to parents and school districts when disagreements arise regarding the provision of special education services to a child with disabilities. The Independent Child Advocate is a neutral ombudsperson trained in ADR.

The Office of the Ombudsman is responsible for helping students and parents resolve problems as they engage with the District of Columbia Public Schools and public charter schools.

The Office of the Ombudsman provides an independent, confidential resource for students, families, employees, and community members, offering informal help to resolve concerns, problems, complaints, and other student-related issues.

The Ombudsman responds to the majority of calls from parents and other family members of students with disabilities, advocacy organizations, and state/local agencies.
The ombudsman acts as a source of information and referral, aids in answering individual's questions, and assists in the resolution of concerns and issues.

To address the needs of families whose students receive Special Education Services, Laura Savage joined SFUSD in July as the special education ombudsman. In this role she works as the family, community and staff liaison for students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

The OSPI Special Education Parent Liaison is available as a resource to parents in non-legal special education matters and serves as a neutral and independent advocate for a fair process. The Special Education Parent Liaison does not advocate on behalf of any one party.

In this approach, all parties to a dispute work with outside legal and/or special education experts to learn more about the merits of their position. 


To provide school districts (LEAs) and parents with an alternative means of resolving disputes and managing conflict at the local level.
Connecticut offers an advisory opinion process that can be accessed by individuals who have already filed for a due process hearing. This strategy enables parties to opt for a neutral opinion and postpone the formal hearing.
The advisory opinion process is an optional dispute resolution process available to parties who have requested a due process hearing. Each party is allocated one hour to give a brief presentation of its case, after which the hearing officer issues an oral, nonbinding opinion within an hour of the close of the presentations.
The advisory opinion process is an optional dispute resolution process available to parents and school districts before or after a due process hearing has been requested. The parties give a brief presentation of their case and the administrative law judge issues a verbal, nonbinding opinion. 
An ALJ Settlement Conference is an alternative to mediation for parties to a due process hearing. In an ALJ Settlement Conference, an administrative law judge (ALJ) facilitates a process between the parties in an attempt to reach settlement of the hearing issues.
Evaluative Conciliation Conference (ECC) is a voluntary process for parents and local education agencies seeking an independent assessment of a dispute related to the provision of public education to an exceptional child.
A Neutral Conference is a voluntary, confidential process presided over by a trained, neutral professional who listens to both sides of a dispute and makes a recommendation which both sides may either adopt or refuse.
The SpedEx Program is a dispute resolution option that is available in certain cases after an IEP has been rejected or a hearing request has been filed.  SpedEx uses a jointly agreed-upon independent SpedEx consultant to review evidence and advise the parties on FAPE and LRE so they may resolve their dispute.
Third Party Discussion Led by Moderator is a free service offered by the NH Department of Education since 2013. A non-adversarial means to discuss parent/guardian/LEA disagreements on a variety of matters including, but not limited to, special education.