Summer 2001 (V. 1, N. 1)
to the first issue of The Beacon, the new electronic journal
of special education law and practice from Harbor
House Law Press.
issue will focus on a theme and include practical and theoretical articles.
Future issues of The Beacon will address various topics, including
class action litigation, document and exhibit preparation, and damages.
Our goal is to publish interesting, useful, readable content. If you are interested in special education law and practice, we think you will enjoy reading The Beacon.
Theme: Negotiation and Mediation v. Litigation
Conflict between parents and school officials is normal and predictable. Most parents want the "best" services for their children while school officials must provide "appropriate" services as they also balance their budgets.
These economic issues lead to conflict and adversarial relationships between parents and school officials. Similarly, economic issues lead to conflict between patients and HMOs, between persons with disabilities and the Social Security Administration, between taxpayers and the IRS, between private industry and federal regulators, and between spouses in alimony and child support cases.
When emotions are strong, as in special education cases and divorce cases, it is more likely that a Judge will resolve issues. After a court issues an order, what happens next? Does the conflict end? Do relationships improve? Does the child receive better services? In many cases, the answer is "no."
A final order that requires one party to provide a service or pay a sum of money to the other party may not end the conflict. Appeals follow. Resistance to the order strengthens. The losing party feels victimized by the Court and refuses to pay. Alternatively, the losing party stalls, leading to increased conflict and mistrust.
After the U. S. Supreme Court issued the landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, some Virginia school boards simply closed their schools. This behavior was massive resistance.
and negotiation, the parties sit down to discuss problems and solutions.
If the matter is successfully resolved, the parties create the settlement
terms and conditions. If the parties are fully involved in the process,
mediated settlements are rarely breached. The parties have an emotional
investment in the success of the settlement.
is not easy nor is it natural. Natural responses to conflict are fight
and flight. You must learn to mediate. Despite these difficulties, we
encourage parents and school officials to use negotiation and mediation
to resolve disputes about educating children with disabilities. In most
cases, the outcome is better.
learn to mediate. Despite these difficulties, we encourage parents and
school officials to use negotiation and mediation to resolve disputes
about educating children with disabilities. In most cases, the outcome
The articles in this first issue of The Beacon: The Journal of Special Education Law and Practice were selected to help you learn how to use negotiation and mediation to resolve special education disputes.
To learn why mediation seems to be a game of poker, but is actually a game of hearts, read Play Hearts, Not Poker. In Play Hearts, Jennifer Bollero writes from the unique perspective of an attorney who is also the parent of a child with autism. Ms. Bollero teaches parents how to negotiate better IEPs for their children. She offers insights and practice tips for attorneys and paralegal advocates who represent parents and children with disabilities. Do not overlook "Eight Steps to Better IEP Meetings" in Play Hearts, Not Poker.
Dee Alpert has litigated federal class action sex discrimination employment suits, administrative sex and race discrimination proceedings, and special education cases. In Tactics & Strategies in Mediations and Negotiations, Ms. Alpert offers excellent advice about positions, offers, and dealing with "junk tactics." You will learn more about the advantages of mediation over litigation.
Problem Solving Lawyer by Michael Palmer, you will discover
the secret of creative mediation when an executor divides 17 cows in
a seemingly impossible manner. Mr. Palmer studied negotiation and mediation
at Harvard and Confluence Northwest in Portland and has written extensively
on the subject. He has taught numerous courses and workshops on negotiation
and mediation and is CEO of The Negotiation Center in Middlebury, Vermont.
More Articles About Mediation and Negotiation
to Negotiate is Part of the Advocacy Process
by Brice Palmer. Negotiating solutions to disputes saves time and money.
Most of our experience is in the civil area, but the techniques and
skills in special education cases are the same. By using these techniques,
we rarely are forced to take a special ed case all the way to a hearing.
Steps to Effective Mediation by Diana Santa Maria and Marc A.
Gregg. Settling a case before trial often involves mediation . . . a
process in which a neutral third party called a mediator acts to encourage
and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties.
It is a nonadversarial process designed to help the disputing parties
reach a mutually acceptable agreement. In mediation, decision-making
authority rests with the parties . . . Read
From the Editor
issues of The Beacon will focus on damages, class action
litigation, documents and education records, and revisiting FAPE. We
welcome article submissions and ideas for articles and issues. If you
are interested in contributing an article, please review our submissions
The Beacon is free of charge. You may subscribe by entering your email address in the "Subscribe Box" at the top of this page. Please forward The Beacon to friends and colleagues.
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