It has come to my attention and to other organizations that serve families who have children with disabilities, that when a parent chooses to mediate a disagreement that they have with the school regarding their child's special education services, the school district will usually have an attorney attend the mediation. School districts, as do parents, have the option to have legal counsel present at a mediation procedure. However, it appears to me that it defeats the spirit of coming together to find common ground and understanding if one side has legal representation and the other side does not.
Wouldn't it be best to have the two parties in a disagreement come to a meeting of the minds and decide together what is best for the student rather than a third party (complaint officer) who doesn't know the student or teachers involved make a decision. It usually leaves both sides feeling negatively about the other.
I understand that there are some cases that mediation is not the best course particularly when both sides are not willing to compromise or be respectful. But for those cases where it hasn't gotten ugly, mediation was a good and viable option. Is it still a good option for parents?
If you are a parent who decides to mediate rather than file a complaint, I suggest you ask the representative of the school district if there will be attorneys present. If so, and you are unable to afford an attorney, it would be wise to reject mediation and file a complaint. It is not a good idea to attend any meeting or hearing without legal representation when the other side has legal representation and you do not.
Has anyone come across this and would like to share their opinion about this seemingly new trend of having attorneys at mediation meetings?