Facilitation and Mediation

graphic with a hand between two representations of people, with the words dispute, mediation, and conflict shown above

Mediation and facilitation are part of parents’ procedural safeguards for dispute resolution. Parents have the right to disagree with decisions that the school system makes.

What is facilitation?

Facilitators help meeting participants focus on the issues and create solutions. They ensure that all participants have a chance to present their views and ideas. They also keep an eye on the clock to help meetings stay on track. Trained neutral facilitators might be considered for meetings involving:

      • IFSPs and IEPs
      • Manifestation determination reviews
      • Resolution meetings related to hearings or state complaints

What is mediation?

Mediation helps parties resolve disputes related to special education and early intervention issues. A trained, neutral mediator fosters a cooperative discussion among the parties. The parties make the final decisions. Mediation is voluntary and confidential to encourage openness, which helps the parties identify and resolve root issues. A successful mediation results in a written, signed agreement that can be incorporated into an IFSP or IEP and is enforceable in court. Mediation can be used at any time for any special education issue. It can be used to resolve disputes before or after requesting a hearing or filing a state complaint.

What is available in Michigan?

The Special Education Mediation Services (SEMS – formerly MSEMP) offers facilitation and mediation services at no cost to families and school districts in Michigan. The SEMS provides trained facilitators and mediators across the state.  Contact SEMS to reach the agency nearest you. SEMS also offers workshops for parents and school staff skill building workshops.

What other resources are available?

Another great resource is The National Center on Dispute Resolution in Special Education: “Encouraging the use of mediation and other collaborative strategies to resolve disagreements about special education and early intervention programs.”

Why use facilitation/mediation?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) encourage the use of facilitated meetings and mediation to reconcile differences and resolve conflict early.  These services can help parents and educators:


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