Recently, I was asked to do an in-service for the mediators who are appointed by the Illinois State Board of Education. My co-presenter was a well known school district attorney. The purpose of the training was to discuss suggestions and reflections on what elements made for a successful mediation. Interestingly enough, the other attorney and I had very similar suggestions. I think they are worth mentioning since many parents are unrepresented in mediation. For a discussion on the difference between mediation and a resolution session, you can refer to the ISBE website. http://www.isbe.state.il.us/spec-ed/
- Mediators are not hearing officers. They cannot force either party to agree or make a decision. They are there to facilitate the process.
- This is not a hearing.
- Prepare a brief summary of your concerns. It is best to identify and prioritize the most important issues rather than to spend a lot of time discussing every possible problem you have encountered with the district. Keep it simple and short (15-20 minutes). Stick to the facts and try not to make it personal.
- Be prepared to state what you want from the district.
- Be prepared to listen.
- The mediator will establish ground rules for each of the parties during the mediation. (e.g. allowing each person to speak, not interrupting).
- Know in advance what you are willing to compromise on. Generally in mediation no one gets everything they want.
- A mediation agreement is a binding document. If either side refuses to sign the agreement then it will be unenforceable.