The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates a preliminary meeting called a "resolution session," which includes the parents and selected school staff, as a prerequisite to a due process hearing. The purpose of a resolution session is to provide the parties with an early informal opportunity for a face-to-face discussion that may be effective in resolving the dispute and preventing the conflict from escalating. Congress specifically found that parents and schools should have expanded opportunities to resolve their disagreements in positive and constructive ways. The legislative history indicates that Congress broadened ADR opportunities in an effort to restore trust and foster cooperation between parents and schools.
Timeline for Resolution Sessions
A resolution session must take place within 15 days of the school district's receipt of a parent's request for a due process hearing. The resolution session is mandatory unless the parents and the district agree in writing to waive the meeting or agree to participate in mediation.
Other Requirements for Resolution Sessions
A representative of the district who has decision making authority must attend the meeting. To promote a more level playing field, the school district attorney may not attend the meeting unless the parents are accompanied by legal counsel. An agreement reached through a resolution session is voidable by either party within 3 business days of its execution. If the matter is not resolved to the parents' satisfaction within 30 days of the district's receipt of the complaint, then the case may proceed to a due process hearing.
IDEA does not mandate confidentiality for resolution sessions. Courts have ruled that resolution sessions are not confidential unless the parties otherwise agree. To prevent settlement proposals made during a resolution session from being used against a party, the parties should enter into a confidentiality agreement. The confidentiality agreement should indicate that discussions, documents and private information shared during the resolution session will remain confidential and will not be introduced at a due process hearing or in court unless they are otherwise admissible.
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