OCR Improves Mediation Process
A full-blown OCR investigation can be a long, expensive, and tedious process. In the meantime, the dispute lingers and the relationship between the parents and the school district may suffer.
OCR’s new Case Process Manual, published on July 18, 2022, improves the process by allowing and, in some cases, encouraging parents and others to request mediation at the same time they file their complaints. The new language, which appears in Section 201, reads as follows:
"Complainants may request mediation at the time of filing of the complaint. If the allegation(s) is within OCR’s jurisdiction, is filed timely (or OCR granted a waiver), provides sufficient detail, states a violation of one of the laws or regulations OCR enforces, and the complainant has provided a signed Consent Form, OCR will contact the recipient and offer this resolution option. If the recipient is interested in mediation, OCR will provide the recipient with a statement of the allegation(s) to be mediated. If the recipient is not interested in mediation, OCR will determine whether to open the complaint for investigation. If the mediation is not successful, OCR will close the original complaint pursuant to subsection 110(o), assign a new docket number to the complaint, and determine whether to open the complaint for investigation."
As before, even if complainants do not request mediation, OCR will contact the parties to offer mediation in appropriate cases.
Sophisticated and well-advised complainants and school districts almost never bypass an opportunity to resolve all or part of an OCR complaint through mediation. The primary benefit of mediation is the opportunity it offers the parties to craft their own solution to the issue(s) that prompted the complaint. Secondary benefits include reducing the time, energy, and expense devoted to resolving the complaint. Last, but not least, a prompt resolution of a complaint can actually improve the relationship between the parents and the school district moving forward.