When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in 2004 by President George Bush, resolution meetings became a mandatory part of due process. The school district must hold a resolution meeting within 15 days after you have filed for due process. Essentially, a resolution session is like mediation, but there is no neutral third party present. Its purpose is to discuss the complaint and to negotiate an agreement.
When you file a due process complaint, it might feel a bit like going to war. You’ll have the resolution meeting, possibly mediation, and then perhaps a due process hearing, all before reaching a resolution. Just remind yourself that you are fighting for your child, as blogger Michelle of Honest & Truly points out. Understand your rights and your child’s rights before initiating the process.
The regulations regarding resolution meetings are covered under section 300.510 of IDEA. While states must follow these regulations, they may also set their own policies regarding resolution meetings (so long as they are in compliance with the federal regulations). Your school district may also have its own policies.
These regulations cover who must attend the resolution meeting, when it must be held, and the circumstances under which it may be bypassed. The local education agency (LEA), or your school district, must have a representative in attendance who is authorized to make binding decisions on behalf of the school district. You and/or your partner must also be present. Attorneys are not mandatory, but if you do bring an attorney, the school district must follow suit.
Resolution meetings must be held within 15 days of filing the due process complaint. The meeting may be waived if you and the school district representative agree to do so in writing, or if both parties agree in writing to use mediation.
Potential Benefits and Drawbacks
The resolution meeting may seem like just another hurdle to get through. But it’s also a chance to resolve the dispute before heading into a lengthy, exhausting, and potentially costly due process hearing. So long as it serves your child’s best interests, you might consider making a compromise with the school district, a la Henry Clay.
Even if it does not result in an agreement, the meeting is another opportunity to take notes on the school district’s position in order to prepare for the due process hearing. However, the downside to the resolution meeting is that there is no neutral third party present. Confidentiality is not required by law. There is also a possibility that an agreement will not be reached.
What to Expect
While every school district is different, in general, you may expect to meet with the same people that are on your child’s IEP team. A resolution meeting is similar to an IEP meeting in that you will present your viewpoint regarding your child’s needs, along with your proposed solutions. The school district representatives will offer their own solutions. Negotiate with the school district, offering concrete examples and referring to specific sections of the law whenever possible. If you and the school district do reach an agreement, it must be written and signed. Both parties have the option of voiding the agreement within three business days.