The Office for
Dispute Resolution (ODR)
The Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR)
Who Are We?
 Funded by the Department of Education (PDE)
 Meets federal requirement of having due process and
mediation available to parents and local education
Optional activities NOT federally mandated:
 Special Education ConsultLine
 Call Resolution Process (CRP)
 IEP Facilitation
 Resolution Meeting Facilitation
 Creating Agreement Training
 NEW: Evaluative Conciliation Conference (ECC) Pilot
Resources available to assist constituents:
 New and improved ODR website
 Dispute Resolution Manual
 On-line request submission and activity evaluation
 Informational videos
 Brochures/Fact sheets
 Links to state and federal resources
 Link to CADRE
 Bilingual specialist to assist callers
 Parent Guide (NEW)
Video Resources available:
 The Mediation Process
 IEP Facilitation
 Resolution Meeting
 Procedural Safeguards Notice
 Resolution Meeting Facilitation
 Mock Due Process Hearing
 Introduction to Special Education Law
 Motions Practice in a Due Process Hearing
 Procedural Safeguards Notice – audio version
More Video Resources available on new ODR website:
 A Tale of Two Conversations
 Hearing Officer Introductory videos
 4-Part Video Series on Preparing for Due Process
 Pre-hearing Matters
 Exhibits and Witnesses
 The hearing itself
 Tips on Participating in due process
Exemplar State
• Pennsylvania is only one of four states selected by
CADRE (with approval by OSEP) as an “exemplar state”
in the area of special education dispute resolution.
Local Education Agency (LEA) =
 EI Preschool Program
 School District
 Intermediate Unit
 Charter/Cyber School
Important things about mediation
 The decision to use mediation is voluntary for
disputes regarding a student’s program or
 It is a process that depends on the willingness of
the parties to discuss their concerns openly and
 Mediation agreements are binding in a court of
Important things about mediation
 All other rights and responsibilities under special
education law, such as the right to a due process
hearing, stay in place whether or not mediation is
 Focuses on mutual-problem solving, is generally less
stressful, less expensive, and usually less timeconsuming to complete than a hearing.
Participants in Mediation
 Parents may invite 2 other participants
 The LEA may bring 3 participants – including
someone who can commit resources
 Attorneys do not participate
 ODR arranges time, date and place of the mediation,
assigning mediator and paying all mediator fees and
 Except for mediations involving Gifted only children,
no cost to parties except for payment of fees for any
guests they invite to participate.
Mediation: OCDEL Infants/Toddlers
 If parent requests mediation, the Infant/Toddler EI
program must attend
 Mediation must be scheduled and held within ten
days of receipt of request
 If mediation is successful, OCDEL receives a copy of
signed agreement
 No established timelines for preschool
 Ages 3-5
Mediation Process
• Opening Statement
• Joint Session
• Caucus
• Joint Session
• Agreement Writing
Mediation Statistics
 More than 400 requests each year
 Majority of requests go to mediation
 Between 77-84% agreement rate each
Mediators – Who Are They?
 Independent contractors
 Must have experience as a mediator
 Must have knowledge of special education law
 Contractors are diverse group that includes
mediators, attorneys, consultants, former educators,
therapists, professors
Due Process
Due Process
 Can be requested by either the parent or LEA, with
majority of requests from parents
 For children who are or are thought to be child with
disability, or
 For students who are or may be gifted, or
 For protected handicapped students under Chapter
15/504 service agreement
Due Process Hearing can be Requested for
Disputes Surrounding…
• Identification
• Evaluation
• Educational placement
• Provision of a free appropriate public education
ODR Hearing Officers…
 Are impartial and are proficient in special education
 Possess the knowledge and ability to conduct
hearings and write decisions according to standard
legal practice.
Hearing Officers – Who Are They?
 6 Full-time
 5 Attorneys
 1 Psychologist
 1 Independent Contractor to oversee cases involving
Gifted only children
 1 Independent Contractor to oversee
overflow/conflict cases
Resolution Meeting
 IDEA 2004 states that when parents initiate due
process, the LEA must hold a meeting with the parent
within 15 days unless both sides agree to waive the
meeting or use mediation.
 ODR is responsible to track this information and
forward to BSE for compliance review.
Due Process Hearing Evidence
 Exhibits (exchanged by the parties)
 Sworn Testimony (taken down by a court reporter)
Hearing Officer Decisions
Based on…
 Evidence
 Findings of Fact
 Credibility determinations
 Conclusions of law
Due Process Statistics
 Fiscal Year 2011-12 had 859 requests
 Large majority cancel prior to full adjudication due
 Parties reaching agreement
 Resolution Meeting agreements
 Withdraws by requesting party
Due Process Most Common Issues
• Compensatory education
• Evaluation
• IEP issues
• Placement
• Identification
• Eligibility
Now Let’s Look at the Other Early Dispute
Resolution Processes
• Special Education ConsultLine
• Call Resolution Process (CRP)
• IEP/IFSP Facilitation
• Resolution Meeting Facilitation
• Evaluative Conciliation Conference (ECC)
• Creating Agreement Training
Special Education ConsultLine
 Toll-free service established in 1995 by PDE
 Became a service of the Office for Dispute Resolution in 2000
 Annually serves 3,000-4000 parents and advocates of children
with disabilities by providing information and assistance with
special education-related issues.
 Provides access to the state complaint process and information
about special education laws, rights, and protections/procedural
 Vast library of resources
 At times, provides intervention/early dispute resolution
between parent and school using the Call Resolution Process
About the Specialists
 ConsultLine is staffed by 4 specialists who have at least a
bachelor’s degree plus field experience in education,
special education or a related human services field.
 One specialist is bilingual (English/Spanish).
 Specialists possess analytical ability and research skills.
 Ongoing staff development and training to keep informed
of regulations and best practice.
How ConsultLine Works
 1-800-879-2301
 Callers use the toll-free number to leave a message,
providing brief explanation of concern and leaving
convenient times for Specialists to return call.
 Specialists return calls between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM
Monday through Friday.
 Calls returned in an equitable manner.
 Specialists attempt to return calls at least 3 times over the
course of 3 business days.
Types of Calls
 Compliance: “My child’s IEP calls for speech three times
a week. The speech therapist is on maternity leave and
he hasn’t had services for two months!”
 Rights : “My district said my child is not eligible for an IEP
and I disagree with them. I want a second opinion.”
 Clarification: “ My advocate tells me I can choose to not
have my child receive special education….is that true?”
 Process: “I think my child needs an IEP; how do I ask
for an evaluation?”
Types of Calls
 Disagreement: “I don’t think my child has made
progress with this IEP. What are my options?”
 Materials and Resource Requests: State forms;
publications; referrals to Parent Training and
Information Center (PTIC) or other public agency.
 Bullying – “My child has Asperger’s Syndrome and is
being bullied on the playground.”
 Section 504 - “My child doesn’t need an IEP but has
ADHD and I think it’s affecting his/her ability to follow
directions and complete assignments on time.”
Types of Calls
 Mental Health – “Can you explain the difference
between a TSS and classroom aide? Would my child
qualify for a TSS?”
 Gifted/Specific Learning Disability (SLD) – “My son has an IQ
of 140 and yet is failing English Lit. class. I think it’s because
of all of the heavy reading assignments. I’m afraid he might
want to drop out if things don’t turn around.”
 Equitable Participation – “I want my child to receive extra
help for reading. I think she may have a disability but the
private school said they’re not equipped to handle special
needs like hers.”
Call Resolution Process (CRP)
 The Call Resolution Process (CRP) facilitates the
possibility of early resolution of compliance related
 CRP is an e-mail notice, sent by the Specialist with the
parent’s permission, to the chief special education
administrator of the LEA. The message relays the
parents’ stated concerns and proposed resolution.
 The BSE Regional Advisor and Division Chief are copied
on the e-mail notice.
CRP Procedures
Before CRP is offered, the Specialist:
 Provides information about state and federal
requirements based on the issue reported;
 Discusses local efforts and options for addressing
 Explains the process for filing a state complaint;
 Determines whether or not the issue meets criteria to
offer CRP.
CRP Procedues
 The LEA manages the e-mail information however it
deems appropriate; the Specialist’s role in CRP is
complete once the email has been sent.
 BSE advisor contacts the LEA with a follow-up inquiry.
 The parent may be contacted by the LEA and/or the
BSE advisor.
CRP: Examples of Issues
 IEP non-implementation
 Timeline violations
 Discipline rule violations
 Child out of school
 lack of notice provided to the parent
 Lack of consent
 Parent was not informed of student’s progress as required
by the IEP
 Behavior plan is not being followed.
IEP/IFSP Facilitation
IEP/IFSP Facilitation
 Voluntary process for times when parties agree that
presence of neutral person will assist them in
discussing IEP/IFSP issues
 Typically used when communication has been
hampered or stalled
 IEP/IFSP Facilitator helps to create atmosphere for
fairness and successful drafting of IEP/IFSP
IEP/IFSP Facilitation is…..
• Free for IDEA-related claims
• Completely voluntary
• Unless BOTH sides agree to a facilitator, IEP/IFSP
Facilitation will not take place.
IEP/IFSP Facilitation…..
 Does not usurp the role of the IEP/IFSP team; the LEA
continues to lead the meeting
 IEP/IFSP team (not ODR) sets date for meeting, and
provides invitation to participate to parents
 Does not result in the facilitator becoming a team
Role of Facilitator
 Not a member of the team
 IEP/IFSP team owns the IEP or IFSP
 Facilitator’s role is only to enhance communication
and to help sides address disagreements or conflict
relating to IEP or IFSP only
 Facilitator offers no technical assistance or input
regarding content
 Facilitator sits in silence if parties are moving forward
Role of Facilitator
An IEP/IFSP Facilitator is like a referee…
If the game is going well, there is not much need for
interference. At other times, the referee’s responsibility
is to get more involved to ensure fair play and to keep the
game moving.
Benefits of IEP/IFSP Facilitation
 Helps to improve relationships among IEP/IFSP
team members and between parent and the LEA
 Opportunities to resolve conflicts as they arise
 Encourages parents and the LEA to identify new
 More cost-effective procedure than formal due
 Less stressful than formal due process
 Allows all parties to participate fully in IEP or IFSP
Resolution Meeting Facilitation
Resolution Meeting Facilitation
 The LEA and parent may have trouble reaching agreement
at the meeting because dispute already exists.
 CADRE is the agency committed to alternate dispute
resolution activities.
 CADRE expressed an interest in states willing to provide
facilitators at resolution meetings.
 ODR accepted the challenge and now offers this cuttingedge early dispute resolution tool.
Resolution Meeting Facilitation
 Available for all parent-initiated due process requests
involving a child with a disability
 Voluntary and FREE for both sides
 The LEA and parent schedule the meeting; ODR arranges
for the facilitator
 If agreement is reached and issues resolved, the parent
can ask the Hearing Officer to withdraw the due process
Role of the Facilitator
 Helps the parties focus on the child’s needs.
 Helps to maintain open communication among all
 Clarifies points of agreement and disagreement.
 Maintains impartiality.
 Does not impose a decision for the group
 May help the parties write an agreement.
Benefits of
Resolution Meeting Facilitation
 Builds and improves relationships
 Provides opportunities for parties to resolve conflicts
which could remove the need for due process
 Encourages parents and professionals to identify new
 Typically less stressful than a due process hearing
Evaluative Conciliation
Conference (ECC)
 ODR committed to providing array of services to resolve
special education disputes
 ODR actively seeking out ways to reduce number of due
process requests
 Early resolution saves time, money, effort
 The earlier the better to resolve differences
 Allows focus to be on student’s education and not on
ECC Offers…
 A neutral “Consultant” to discuss and evaluate
both sides’ case
 A risk assessment regarding the dispute and
 An opportunity for an impartial look at the merits
of a case
 A perspective on law interpretation and analysis
 Possible creative solutions
How ECC Works
 Parties submit brief memo to Consultant, detailing
 Consultant communicates with parties through
conference calls and individual call
 Consultant provides separate and individual
evaluation to each side
 Flexible process to meet everyone’s individual needs
 ECC is confidential; Consultant will not share individual
discussions or written memos with other side without
their permission
 Consultant will destroy all documents following final
conference session
 Parties agree to not seek to compel Consultant to testify
in future proceedings
 Consultant will not issue any written decisions
 Statements by Consultant do not constitute legal advice
Impact on Due Process by ECC
 ECC may be initiated before or after due
process is requested
 Due process timelines not affected by ECC
 Hearing Officer presiding over active due
process will have no knowledge of ECC being
 Due process may be withdrawn if ECC results
in agreement
Creating Agreement in PA
 ODR providing conflict resolution training across the
state since 2002.
 In 2008, joined the national effort to build capacity for
early dispute resolution through Creating Agreement.
 PA has been lead state in nation for delivering Creating
 ODR investigating ways to expand outreach, such as online training and other cost-effective methods of
Creating Agreement in PA
Key concepts of Creating Agreement Model:
 Value of Conflict
 Conflict style
 Perceptions
 Conflict resolution styles
 Positions and interests
 Listening and communication
 Power imbalance
 Cultural reciprocity
Special Education Dispute Resolution
The Special Education Dispute Resolution Manual
describes the due process hearing procedures in
detail. It outlines the mediation and due process
procedures for all age groups. This manual is available
on ODR’s web page (http://www.odr-pa.org), or can
be mailed to any interested party upon request.
Parent Guide (NEW)
Stakeholder Council
 Diverse membership that includes parents,
advocates, attorneys, educators, constituency groups
 Self sustaining
 Provides functional input on the services of ODR
 Interviews hearing officer candidates and makes
What’s Next?
 Proactive effort to support and expand dispute
resolution and agreement-reaching activities for
parents and LEAs
 Investigate cost-effective technology options to
increase public outreach and availability of services.
 “The strength of a relationship is not to be measured
in the frequency or magnitude of the difficulties
encountered, but rather in the ability to resolve
-Nicholas Martin
Contact Information www.odr-pa.org
Kerry V. Smith, Esquire
[email protected]
Office for Dispute Resolution
6340 Flank Drive
Harrisburg, PA 17112-2764
(717) 541-4960 or 1-800-222-3353
TTY Users: PA Relay 711
Email at [email protected]
Web address www.odr-pa.org
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Tom Corbett, Governor
Pennsylvania Department of Education
Ronald J. Tomalis, Secretary
Carolyn C. Dumaresq, Ed.D., Deputy Secretary
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
John J. Tommasini, Director
Bureau of Special Education
Patricia Hozella, Assistant Director
Bureau of Special Education

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