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Mediation and Impartial Hearings

October 27, 2021
Advocacy, Special Education

Mediation offers the parents of a child with a disability and representatives of the school a chance to talk together in hopes of finding a way to solve a disagreement about the child’s education. Parents and school representatives talk with the aid of a trained special education mediator from a local mediation center. Mediation is voluntary and only takes place if both parties agree to meet.

Who is at the mediation?

The parent, a representative of the school district and a mediator from a Community Dispute Resolution Center must be present. Other people may also be present, but the parent and school must agree on who attends. 

What happens at mediation? 

  • Meet: Everyone meets at an agreed time and place. 
  • Talk: The school representative will listen to parent concerns and share the school’s concerns. The parent and school search for ways to solve the problem by talking and listening to each other. 
  • Agree: Any agreement reached is put into writing and signed. The Committee on Special Education (CSE) must accept a written mediation agreement and will amend the Individualized Education Program (IEP) based upon the agreement. Meditation agreements are binding and can be enforced.

How does mediation work? 

  • Mediation is a free local service. Mediation is supported by a trained mediator from a local community mediation center.
  • Mediation is confidential, so information shared can’t be used at an impartial hearing.
  • Mediation is unbiased. The mediator is neutral and does not represent any person. The mediator encourages all sides to talk and listen so everyone’s view can be heard.
  • Mediation is supportive. It offers a nonthreatening, safe environment, which encourages a respectful conversation between parents and schools.
  • All decisions remain in the hands of the participants.
  • Asking for mediation does not stop the parent from going forward with other ways to solve the problem, such as an impartial hearing or state complaint.

What is an impartial hearing?

  • Impartial hearings are legal proceedings and are conducted in front of an Impartial Hearing Officer who will reach a decision that favors one party over the other.
  • Impartial hearings are usually held with attorneys. As hearings are based on facts and procedural issues, attorneys attempt to argue for their case and find fault with the other party’s positions and issues.
  • Rules of evidence hold. Information each party intends to present must be presented beforehand and the proceedings must stay within the framework of that evidence. 
  • Decisions are made by the Hearing Officer. Other than appealing the decision, parties have no control over the outcome.
  • Hearings can take a significant amount of time ranging from a few months to almost an entire school year.
  • The hearing has parties speaking to the officer, not each other and determines a winner and a loser.

Where can I find a mediation center?


IMCR Dispute Resolution Center

384 East 149th Street, Suite 330

Bronx, NY 10455

(718) 585-1190   


The New York Peace Institute

210 Joralemon Street, Room 618

Brooklyn, NY 11201

(718) 834 6671


Community Mediation Services, Inc.

89-64 163rd Street

Jamaica, NY 11432

(781) 523-6868


The New York Peace Institute

346 Broadway, Room 400 W

New York, NY 10013

(212) 577-1740

Staten Island

NY Center for Interpersonal Development

(SI Dispute Community Resolution Center)

130 Stuyvesant Place

4th Floor

Staten Island, NY 10301

(781) 720-9410