The mediation session is a meeting that is held between parents and educators who may differ in their views on what services, programs, placement, etc. should be provided a particular student. The mediator guides the process but does not decide the outcome. The mediation takes place in the student's school district as soon as a mutually convenient date and time can be scheduled. A mediation session may last from 2 hours to a day. Occasionally, multiple sessions are needed, as agreed to by the parties. The mediation session is comprised of several distinct stages:
Stage I: Preliminary Stage
As participants arrive, the mediator typically introduces him/herself and sometimes indicates where the participants are to sit. Once everyone is seated, the mediator asks all participants to introduce themselves by name and their connection to the student.
The mediator strives to establish a climate conducive to joint decision making. The mediator reviews the purpose of mediation and the procedures that will be utilized during the session. This review typically includes:
- Brief discussion of the Agreement to Mediate Form, ground rules and the confidentiality requirements for mediation;
- An explanation of the mediator's role, which includes listening, questioning, and facilitating discussions aimed at reaching viable alternatives, agreements, and solutions; and
- A statement indicating while information from the past is frequently helpful, the focus of the discussion should be on the current and future needs in order to resolve the dispute.
In addition, the mediator explains the use of recess and caucus during the mediation process.
A recess allows participants a chance to consider what has occurred and what solutions might be agreeable to them and offers a break in the proceedings.
A caucus refers to a private meeting between the mediator and each of the parties. During these private sessions the mediator has a chance to talk to each party alone. It can be helpful to further determine the issues and positions of the parties and what alternatives might be considered to the proposed plan. Parties may want to share confidential information with the mediator. The information shared during the private session is not revealed to the other party unless the mediator is given permission to do so.
Stage II: Discussion
The mediator will give the parties the opportunity to present their concerns During the discussion period, the mediator will:
- Assist the parties in participating equally in the discussion;
- Clarify and summarize statements that may be misinterpreted or not understood;
- Provide periodic summaries of the discussion;
- Call a recess or caucus when appropriate;
- Assist in exploring alternatives; and
- Encourage full, active participation of the parties.
Stage III: Closure
If the parties have come to an agreement, the mediator, working with the parties, verbally summarizes the agreement and puts the agreement in writing.
The agreement may:
- Indicate who will be responsible for implementation;
- Specify the time frames for implementation; and
- Indicate what action is expected of each individual.
The parties then finalize the agreement by signing it. Copies are provided for all parties.
If the parties are not able to reach an agreement, the mediator will discuss other options.