Alternate Dispute Resolution

Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Independent Child Advocates

Image of the cover of the book "Getting To Yes" by Fisher, Ury, and Patton
It is the commitment of Butte County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) to address concerns and/or disagreements that might arise between parents and the Local Educational Agency (LEA) at the earliest time possible. It is critical to promote understanding, open communication, and satisfying solutions to conflict that support and strengthen relationships. Areas of disagreement sometimes involve implementation of the individualized education program (IEP), assessments and timelines, the content of the IEP, and the appropriateness of special education programs and/or services.  It is the intent of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that the IEP process be a non-adversarial one, and we are here to support you and our staff in coming to agreement and moving forward.

Generally, disagreements should be brought to the attention of school site staff first, and then to district level, SELPA level, and State level, as appropriate.  See Hierarchy for Resolving Concerns or Conflicts, shared with permission of Riverside County SELPA.  When disagreements cannot be resolved at the school site level, school staff must contact the district's special education administrator as soon as possible. The district's special administrator will work with the school site principal or designee in reviewing the case and work collaboratively with all parties involved.  There are several methods for investigating and resolving matters for overall concerns and those specific to Special Education. These include Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR); California Department of Education (CDE) complaint process procedures; Office of Administrative Hearings due process procedures; and Office of Civil Rights (OCR) complaint procedure.

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Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is an informal method of settling disagreements. ADR uses specific techniques to promote understanding, open communication, and arrive at satisfying solutions to conflict that support and strengthen relationships. ADR is designed to meet the interests of all parties involved which results in a crafted, mutually agreeable outcome, rather than having a decision made by a third party such as a hearing officer or judge.

The Butte County SELPA is committed to helping families and schools solve problems and conflicts in the fastest and easiest way, reducing legal costs for both parents and school districts. ADR provides an opportunity for individuals to resolve disagreements in a safe, efficient way. ADR is voluntary. All involved must be willing participants who are prepared and open to finding common ground in the effort to move through the conflict.

Participation in an ADR session is voluntary and confidential. With the exception of trainings, all ADR services are confidential unless all participants in the ADR meeting agree otherwise. The mediator or facilitator will disclose neither the names of the participants nor content of an ADR session to any outside source unless otherwise agreed. Employees utilizing ADR services to resolve a conflict have assurance that information raised in an ADR meeting will not be used against them at a future date. Similarly, if families and districts have an unsuccessful ADR meeting (resulting in a state level proceeding), none of the contents in an ADR session will be used as evidence in a subsequent due process hearing. 

Generally, when disagreements are not resolved at a local level, a SELPA Program Specialist assists districts and families in working through disagreements related to the IEP process.  All SELPA Program Specialists are trained in Alternate Dispute Resolution through attendance at trainings and conferences.  Occasionally, another ADR specialist will be contracted with to support the process.  ADR services can include: Trainings; Resolution Sessions; Pre-filing Meetings; Facilitated IEP Meetings; and Coaching.  If you are interested in receiving support from a SELPA Program Specialist with any of these services, please complete the following Butte County SELPA ADR Services Request.

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Front cover of trifold SELPA brochure on Alternative Dispute ResolutionIndependent Child Advocates

The Butte County SELPA has for many years held a contract with Rowell Family Empowerment of Northern California, Inc., whose advocates help field parent concerns when parents are reluctant to work with district staff for whatever reason.  Acting as a liaison, they work collaboratively with the family and the district, and many times SELPA staff, to bring about meetings or resolutions without a need for other complaint processes.  Rowell Family Empowerment services are funded through grant funds from the SELPA Alternate Dispute Resolution grant.

Matrix Parent Network and Resource Center is a parent-founded, parent-operated nonprofit organization that provides training, support groups, resources, referrals, and parent-to-parent mentoring with issues related to navigating the world of special education. Similarly to Rowell Family Empowerment, Matrix Parent Network operates under grant funding and the services they provide for parents of students with disabilities in Butte County are free of charge.  

Another agency that parents often seek out to provide advocacy is Promotores of Northern Valley Catholic Social Service.  Part of the mission of Promotores is to advocate for the poor and vulnerable, and to contribute to freedom and independence.  They provide Court-Appointed Special Advocates (or CASAs) for students coming through the foster system without stable advocates of their own.

Finally, Far Northern Regional Center (FNRC) is another resource for some families.  Individuals who receive services from Far Northern Regional Center may request assistance from a FNRC Client Rights Advocate retained by regional center from Disability Rights of California.  

Marc Purchin of Purchin Consulting, Inc. has also provided training and consultative services to Butte County SELPA under our ADR grant.  Some of the documents he has shared at our events include the following:
Tested Tips for IEP Meetings
Listening as an Ally
<<---  Click on the ADR brochure on the left for more information. 


Other links
Family Empowerment Centers - Seeds of Partnership 
Special Education Acronyms
CDE Compliance Complaint information
Office of Administrative Hearing brochure
Also, click here to go to the Parent Rights and Procedural Safeguards page of our site.


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