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Dispute Resolution

Facilitated Team Meetings

To help special education planning teams reach agreements, the Minnesota Department of Education, Compliance and Assistance, Alternative Dispute Resolution Services provides the option of facilitated team meetings.

This option is available for IEP (Individualized Education Program), IIIP (Individual Interagency Intervention Plan), and IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan) meetings.

Complete Due Process Options Chart

Parents Need to Know

  • Issues: Parent-school cannot agree on an Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Who is usually involved: IEP team (including parents) and facilitator (assigned by MDE)
  • Decision maker(s): IEP team with support from facilitator
  • Timeline: Must be scheduled in a timely manner
  • Cost (parent pays): None

Points of Interest

  • Either party may request, but both must agree to participate
  • Entire IEP team required
  • Information can be used in a due process hearing
  • Can address the specific areas of concern/disagreement or the entire IEP
  • May help build and improve relationships between parents and the school
  • You may invite your child or others who know him/her

Using facilitated team meetings is a growing trend and has proved especially useful when relationships are strained. Minnesota Statutes, section 125A.091 states that:

Subd. 6. Dispute resolution processes; generally. Parties are encouraged to resolve disputes over the identification, evaluation, educational placement, manifestation determination, interim alternative educational placement, or the provision of a free appropriate public education to a child with a disability through conciliation, mediation, facilitated team meetings, or other alternative process. All dispute resolution options are voluntary on the part of the parent and must not be used to deny or delay the right to a due process hearing. All dispute resolution processes under this section are provided at no cost to the parent.

All federal and state laws and regulations related to the development of IEPs, such as having 14 days to sign the IEP, still apply.

What is a Facilitated Team Meeting?

Typically, a member of the IEP team leads the IEP meeting. Sometimes a school district representative with expert skills is called in to help the team complete the IEP process. There is also a growing use of students in leading their own meetings.

However, when IEP teams reach an impasse or conflict is expected at the meeting, it may be helpful to have an independent, trained facilitator guide the process. The facilitator is an impartial, trained person provided by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to work with a student’s IEP team. Either the parent or the school may request a facilitated team meeting and both parties need to agree to participate. There is no cost for the service to the parents or school district.

The facilitator helps keep the IEP team members focused on developing the IEP while addressing conflicts and disagreements that may arise during the meeting. The facilitator will try to create an environment in which the IEP team members can listen to one another’s points of view and work together to develop an IEP that is acceptable to both the parents and the school district.

“An impartial facilitator conducting the meeting kept us moving forward so we did not become stuck on personal issues.”
- Parent

“The facilitator helped establish guidelines for the meeting which helped to relieve the tension. This allowed people to be open and honest.
- School Psychologist

Role of the Facilitator

The facilitator:

  • maintains impartiality and does not take sides or place blame.
  • helps members of the IEP team focus on the needs of the child and on developing a mutually acceptable IEP.
  • assists the team in resolving conflicts and disagreements related to the IEP.
  • helps maintain open communication among all members.
  • helps team members develop and ask clarifying questions.
  • helps team members stay on task and within the time allotted for the meeting.
  • does not determine if a particular decision is right or wrong.
  • does not impose a decision on the group.

As a facilitator at facilitated IEP meetings, it is my responsibility to help keep the lines of communication open among the IEP team members. Hopefully this will lead to the development of an appropriate Individualized Education Program for the student. At times this can be difficult because previous meetings may have been tense and stressful for all concerned. I use various facilitation skills in which I have been trained. I try to help the team establish ground rules for the meeting, aid participants in developing clarifying questions that often lead to mutual solutions, and require members of the team to adhere to timelines for completion of the meeting. I do not make the final decisions; those are up to the IEP team and the family is always a key member of that team.
- IEP Facilitator

Benefits of a Facilitated Team Meeting

A facilitated team meeting:

  • may build and improve relationships among the IEP team members and between parents and schools.
  • models effective communication and listening.
  • clarifies points of agreement and disagreement.
  • provides opportunities for team members to resolve conflicts if they arise.
  • encourages parents and professionals to identify new options to address unresolved problems.
  • supports follow through and follow-up. Roles and responsibilities can be discussed and planned.
  • is the IEP meeting and does not require a separate IEP meeting to formalize agreements that are reached.

“Everyone was heard and a good plan was worked out for the student.”
- School Administrator

Family Preparation for a Facilitated Team Meeting

  • List your child’s strengths, needs, and interests and your major concerns about his or her education. (Consider using PACER’s “IEP Team Meeting Planner.” )
  • Consider how your child’s disability affects his or her education.
  • Think about your child’s educational progress. What has been working and what has not?
  • Read your child’s most recent school Evaluation Report; request a copy if you don’t have one.
  • Is the Evaluation Report still an accurate and complete picture of your child?
  • Be willing to listen carefully and consider possible solutions and options.
  • Attend a workshop or training conducted by a parent center, such as PACER Center, to learn about your role and responsibilities as a member of the IEP team.
  • Call PACER Center. A staff member can answer your questions and help you prepare for the meeting. In some cases, a staff member may attend the facilitated team meeting with you.

How do I request a Facilitated Team Meeting?

Either parents or schools can request a facilitated team meeting. However, both parties must agree to use this voluntary process. A request form must be signed by both parties and sent to the MDE office. The forms are available at school district offices and advocacy organizations, MDE’s website, or they will be sent to an interested party by MDE.

Compliance and Assistance can be contacted at:Minnesota Department of Education Compliance and Assistance

Who attends a Facilitated Team Meeting?

The required members of the IEP team attend the facilitated team meeting in addition to the facilitator. If they wish, parents may still bring an advocate or other people who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child.

Who is the facilitator?

MDE/Compliance and Assistance keeps a list of persons trained and experienced in IEP development and conflict resolution. They are impartial, not representing either the parents or the school district.

Where and when is a Facilitated Team Meeting conducted?

Just as for any IEP meeting, the facilitated team meeting is scheduled by the school district and conducted at a time and place mutually agreeable to all required IEP team members, including the parents.

Is there any type of procedural notice that I will receive regarding a Facilitated Team Meeting?

The district is still required to give proper notice of the IEP meeting to the parents about the purpose, time, and location as well as who has been invited.

What happens if we don’t finish the IEP?

A facilitated team meeting may take longer than a typical IEP meeting. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) requests a minimum of four hours and suggests reserving a full day. If an agreement about the IEP is not reached at the first meeting, another meeting may be scheduled.

Does the facilitator make decisions?

No. The role of the facilitator is to facilitate communication among the IEP team members, helping them to develop an effective IEP for the student. The facilitator models effective communication skills and offers ways to address and resolve conflicts in the development of the IEP. Facilitators are trained in effective communication and ways to address and resolve conflicts. The members of the IEP team are the decision-makers. Parents still have 14 calendar days to sign the “Notice of District’s Proposed Action or Denial.”

Do parents pay for the Facilitated Team Meeting?

There is no cost to parents or to the school for IEP facilitation.

What if the Facilitated Team Meeting does not work?

Sometimes issues, disagreements, and problems may not be resolved through a facilitated team meeting.  Parents still have rights to other appropriate forms of dispute resolution such as conciliation, mediation or a due process complaint.

Is there a guaranteed right for families to have access to an IEP facilitator?

No. The state will provide a facilitator only if both the parent and school district agree on the need and make the request.

Checklist: Preparing for a Facilitated Team Meeting

Ensuring that your child with a disability receives an appropriate education is an important part of your role as a parent. You may not always agree with the other members of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) team. One option for resolving a dispute is a Facilitated Team Meeting.

You can take the following steps to help you prepare for success in a Facilitated Team Meeting:

Prior to the meeting

  • Contact PACER Center regarding having an advocate attend the meeting with you.
  • Be sure that you have all the necessary school records, such as the proposed IEP/IFSP, current IEP/IFSP, most recent Evaluation Summary Report, and some recent progress reports. If necessary, ask he school staff to send them to you.
  • Review your child’s most recent Evaluation Summary Report and highlight the “needs” identified. This information may validate your concerns and provide what you feel your child needs.
  • Make a list of your concerns and prioritize them in order of importance.
  • Make a list of your child’s strengths.
  • Make a list of what you see is and is not working for your child.
  • Think about possible solutions or options that might help your child to share at the meeting.
  • Think about how you communicate. If you need to refresh your skills, PACER’s website has publications and workshops to help you with your communication skills.
  • Decide if your child will participate in the meeting. If they will be attending, talk with them about what to expect. You may also want to help them prepare their own talking points. Things for your student to consider include:
    • What do you feel your strengths are?
    • What is the most difficult thing for you in school?
    • What helps you be successful in school?
    • Is there something specific you want everyone to know about you?

At the meeting

  • Bring a picture of your child if they are not attending and place it on the table.
  • Arrive a few minutes early so that you can organize your thoughts and paperwork. PACER encourages the school has a printer available if one is not provided by the facilitator.
  • Be ready to communicate effectively.
  • Bring the lists you have developed. These can help you stay on track, focus on your child’s needs and remember your concerns. After an item is discussed, check it off your list.
  • Be willing to actively listen to everyone at the table and consider the information they share. That does not mean you have to agree, but you should listen and consider what is presented.
  • Bring any supporting documents and share with the team as you feel necessary. You may want to bring copies for the school or ask if they would like to make a copy. You could also provide them with a copy prior to the meeting.
  • Keep the issues focused on your child’s needs.
  • Ask for clarification on anything you do not understand such as educational terminology.
  • Make sure that all agreements are written into the IEP/IFSP. The facilitator will help with this.
  • Ask for a break during the meeting if you need one.

After the meeting

  • If the district provides you with a proposed IEP/IFSP and prior written notice, read the draft copy of the IEP/IFSP and if you are in agreement, you can sign the parental consent/objection form. You may request to take it home and review it. With a facilitated team meeting the goal is that everyone in attendance is part of writing the IEP/IFSP, and so all are in agreement. However, due process options are still available to you, which include 14 calendar days to consider the IEP/IFSP, notify the district of any objections, and request either a meeting with relevant IEP/IFSP team members or a conciliation conference.
  • Thank everyone for their participation.