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The Special Education Resolution Center (SERC) manages the special education due process hearing system for the State of Oklahoma. The duties of SERC have been expanded to include innovative programs to assist parents and school districts to settle disputes at the earliest stage possible. At no cost to either party, SERC provides highly trained mediators to assist with disputes which may develop at any time during the relationship of the parties over special education issues. Additionally, SERC also provides highly trained facilitators during required resolution sessions of due process. SERC provides stakeholder training that supports mutual collaboration.
Special Education from the Oklahoma State Department of Oklahoma has received national recognition for its work in Alternative Dispute Resolution programs including Formal Complaints, Mediation and Due Process Hearings. The Consortium of Appropriate Dispute Resolution (CADRE) and the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) worked together to determine the top four states with strong and progressive alternative dispute resolution programs. Oklahoma, along with three other states have worked collaboratively to develop Exemplar Model profiles of the selected states. The exemplar profiles and material resources were first unveiled in December of 2010. CADRE will be featuring the Exemplar Project at a National Symposium in Eugene, Oregon in October 2011. Jo Anne Blades, Program Manager of SERC, was selected to represent Oklahoma's program and will serve on a national panel of experts to assist with ADR development in special education throughout the United States.
Mediation is a voluntary process in which parties meet with a neutral third party for the opportunity to resolve a special education dispute. There is no cost to either party. Mediation is available at any time parties are unable or are struggling to resolve an educational dispute. Parties interested in mediation may download a Parent or School district request for mediation. The parent must also sign consent for release of information to accompany the request. SERC will notify the other party of the request. After both parties have voluntarily agreed to mediation of the issues, then a highly trained mediator will be assigned. For more information on mediation, check out the mediation manual on our website.
Mediators are highly trained in resolving disputes. SERC provides ongoing training each year to assist mediators in sharpening their skills for overcoming roadblocks to settlement. Mediators are invited to attend national conferences related to their duties in conducting mediation and facilitation.
When disputes regarding special education cannot be resolved, a party may participate in a due process hearing. Special rules are in place for conducting the hearing process. Hearing officers are assigned at the time of filing for a hearing. The hearing officer, in the beginning, checks to make sure that the parties are meeting their responsibilities during the first thirty days. During the first thirty days, the parties are in a settlement period. Services are offered by SERC to the parent and school to help the parties resolve their dispute. If the entire dispute cannot be resolved, then the unresolved issues move forward to a hearing.
SERC recruits, trains and evaluates hearing and appeal officers that conduct the due process hearings. Hearing and appeal officers are recruited from around the State and must have a Master’s degree or above in a field related to special education or must be an attorney. There is a preference for attorneys because of their basic knowledge in researching the law and conducting the hearings.
Training is provided on an ongoing basis and includes major mandatory training sessions. One of the major session focuses on administrative process and the second focuses on special education and related issues. Training is also provided in Part C of the IDEA – Sooner Start. SERC brings a national expert on special education and special education law to present on the latest developments in special education. Hearing Officials are also invited to attend national conferences related to their duties in conducting special education hearings.
Disputes are most effectively resolved at the earliest stage possible. SERC provides training to school districts and parents in Engaging in Challenging Conversations. The training teaches the participants to focus on Mutual Purpose and develop skills for effective Collaboration. Student outcomes are best when parties learn to effectively communicate their interests and needs and work together to develop appropriate services for children with special needs.
Funding for this project is provided by the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
9726 E. 42nd Street, Suite 203 | Tulsa, OK 74146
Ph: (918) 270-1849 | Toll-free: (888) 267-0028 | Fax: (918) 270-2062