ADR California — Resource Hub

Alternative Dispute Resolution — Special Education

This Alternative Dispute Resolution California (ADR California) Resource Hub provides information and resources for special educators, parents, Local Educational Agencies (LEAs), Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs), and parent centers across California. Explore resources aimed at improving partnerships, resolving disagreements, and reducing formal complaints and due process filings.

Disagreements between parents and schools can be about a variety of topics including special education related goals, services, supports, placement, IEP process, communication, and a myriad of other reasons. Moving toward working out differences at the lowest possible level, with the least amount of conflict, saves time and the outcome can be better for the child involved and the relationship between the parents and the school.

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is an umbrella term referring to any resolution process, agreed to by disagreeing parties, in which the services of a neutral professional are used to assist them in reaching agreement and avoiding litigation. It is a voluntary process for resolving special education conflict. It uses clear communication, collaboration, negotiation, and mediation to produce a fair agreement that meets the interests of all parties involved. The ADR process allows the parties to come up with an innovative and jointly agreeable outcome.

What are some examples of the ADR processes related to special education?

  • IEP facilitation through a neutral party
  • Informal resolution sessions
  • SELPA/LEA collaborate with a parent center to provide trainings for parents or parent to parent family support
  • One-on-one conversations or office hours with a trained facilitator on communication strategies
  • Voluntary mediation with the LEA or SELPA

Why use Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Some benefits and values include:

  • Strengthening relationships and trust
  • Opportunity to listen to all perspectives and to be heard
  • Ability to ask questions and share concerns without judgment or blame
  • Working together to identify the problem
  • Brainstorming solutions together
  • Moving toward resolution more quickly than formal processes

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IDEA Dispute Resolution Data Summary: California

A historical look at dispute resolution data to assist with the identification of trends and changes in the use of the IDEA dispute resolution processes over time.
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CADRE Working Together Series

These five interactive, self-directed courses provide families and educators with strategies for working together and through conflict. Anyone supporting children or youth with disabilities may benefit from this series.

Preparing for Special Education Mediation and Resolution Sessions

This guide equips families to make the most of the new and expanded dispute resolution options offered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
ADRCal, a former project of the Napa County Office of Education, funded by the California Department of Education, maintained an ADR-related directory for several years. Many articles and resources from ADRCal transitioned to Seeds of Partnership during the 2022-23 contract year and are now included within this ADR California Resource Hub.