ADR and the Collaborative Conference
SFUSD and The Bar Association of San Francisco Partnership to Keep Moving Your Child's Learning Forward
The Special Education Services Department of the San Francisco Unified School District has partnered with The Bar Association of San Francisco to offer a new way to resolve complaints with the school district regarding the learning needs of your child. Professional facilitators through the Bar Association's Alternative Dispute Resolution Program offer skilled mediation for the prevention and resolution of complaints between parents and school district personnel in a cooperative forum of problem-solving called the 'Collaborative Conference'. This process has been shown in other school districts to reduce the level of tension and conflict between parents and district personnel who must work together effectively to advance a child's learning at school.
What is the Collaborative Conference?
The 2-hour 'Collaborative Conference' is a no-attorney zone for the confidential discussion of complaints needing resolution. A skilled, experienced facilitator certified in mediation practice and trained in the policies, procedures and law of special education, facilitates the informal meeting. The goal is to create a positive, peaceable approach to finding student-centered resolutions. There is no requirement that parents choose this alternative. The Collaborative Conference is voluntary, optional and completely confidential. Additionally, the content of what is discussed during a Collaborative Conference, including any information exchanged regarding any provided materials, is to remain confidential, and shall not be repeated in a future forum.
Who attends the Collaborative Conference?
Parents, educational rights holders, non-legal support persons and school district personnel with the greatest understanding of the child's needs attend the Collaborative Conference. A trained facilitator assists with communication and discussion at the Conference and renders in writing any agreements reached.
Who are the Collaborative Conference Facilitators?
The Bar Association of San Francisco's Panel of Special Education Facilitators (SEF Panel) are certified mediators with the Bar Association's Bay Area Mediation Program who have received 15 hours of specialized training in special education law and the culture of parental and school district relations. In addition, the facilitators who serve on the SEF Panel have received specific training in the kinds of complaints parents have brought in the special education context and the frustrations, tensions and culture that can bring about difficulties and complaint.
What are the benefits to participating in a Collaborative Conference?
Parents participating in the conference have the opportunity to gain insight into the decisions of the school district, negotiate their own position in an informal, non-intimidating space and reestablish lines of communication. The goal of the Collaborative Conference is to achieve an early student-centered resolution.
Here are some other values to consider:
- It's Effective - Facilitated communication, which the Collaborative Conference sessions offer, overwhelmingly result in long-term resolutions with mutual satisfaction
- It's Free to parents who participate in the Collaborative Conference
- It's Convenient - The Collaborative Conferences can be scheduled at a mutually convenient time and location to accommodate participants' schedules
- It's Empowering - The Collaborative Conference allows parents and school personnel to develop student-focused solutions which take into account all perspectives
- It's Confidential - Statements made during the Collaborative Conference and documents prepared for the sessions are confidential and are not made available under any circumstances without the expressed written consent of all participants