As yet another way to resolve disputes before a due process hearing, the IDEA 2004 added a resolution process. Once a due process complaint notice is filed, the school district is required to convene a resolution meeting between the parents and the relevant members of the IEP team. The purpose of the resolution meeting is for the parents to discuss the due process complaint and give the school district an opportunity to resolve the dispute.
The relevant members of the IEP team are those members of the team who have specific knowledge about the facts identified in the due process complaint. The parents and the school district will mutually determine which members of the IEP team are relevant. Additionally, the meeting must include a representative of the school district who has the authority to make decisions on behalf of the school district.
The meeting, however, may not include an attorney representing the school district unless the parents bring an attorney to the meeting. So, the parents have an opportunity to meet with school staff without the school district’s attorney being present. If parents choose to bring an attorney to the resolution meeting, then the school district may also bring its attorney.
Moreover, should parents choose to be represented by an attorney at the resolution meeting, the parents may not be awarded attorneys’ fees for their lawyer’s time attending the meeting. The resolution meeting is required unless the school district and the parents agree in writing to waive it or the two sides agree to use mediation instead. If the dispute is resolved through the resolution meeting, the parents and the school district will develop and sign a written settlement agreement. Similar to the mediation agreement, the resolution settlement agreement is enforceable in State court or United States district court. But, either the parents or the school district have three business days after the agreement is signed to void, or get out of, the agreement.
Finally, from the parent’s perspective, the resolution session is essentially another IEP meeting but, perhaps, without the school district’s attorney. On the other hand, the mediation process involves an outside person, the mediator, who can help facilitate resolving the dispute. For that reason, parents and the school district might choose to use the mediation process instead of the resolution process. Using either process will be beneficial if disputes are resolved without the need for a due process hearing.