The Role of Mediation and Due Process Hearings When Parents Don't Agree with IEPs

Health Writer

When parents disagree with an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), they have the right to appeal the decision by requesting either a due process hearing, mediation or both.

Once you file a request for a due process hearing, you will be notified of a resolution meeting. Both you and the school district will be required to attend this meeting, unless:

  • You have also requested and will attend mediation.
  • Both you and the school district agree that you will not attend a resolution meeting.

This meeting should occur within 15 days from the date you file for a due process hearing. (In cases of discipline matters, this is 7 days.) It is a chance for you and the school district to try to resolve any disputes. The school district may bring a lawyer to this meeting, only if you have advised you will have an attorney. If you and the school district come to an agreement during this meeting, it will be put into writing and signed by both parties. After a three-day review period, the agreement becomes enforceable.

If no agreement is made, the matter will be scheduled for a due process hearing and mediation (if requested.)


A mediator can sometimes help both sides come together and find the best way to help your child. The mediator is a neutral third party that will sit down with both sides and work to find solutions to the dispute between the parents and the school district. Some safeguards parents have when using a mediator to resolve IEP issues:

  • The school district cannot require or demand that a parent attend mediation.
  • The school district cannot demand you accept the results of a mediation session.
  • Everything you say within a mediation session is confidential.
  • Any agreement that is written as a result of mediation is an enforceable agreement.

Due Process Hearing

Due process hearings are conducted by a judge. During the hearing, you will have the opportunity to present witnesses and evidence to back up your claims and support your requests for services. The school district will have the same opportunity. Once the judge hears both sides, he or she will make a decision. Parents are able to appeal the decision of the judge if they do not agree (this appeal must be filed within 90 days of the judge's decision.)

For additional information:

Documentation and Reports to Bring to an IEP Meeting

Do You Need an Educational Advocate?

The Difference Between Accommodations and Modifications

When Parents Feel Their Child Needs Special Accommodations


"How You Can Appeal Your Child's School Decision Under IDEIA", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Legal Services of New Jersey

"Due Process Appeals", 2009, Author Unknown, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center