The Wisconsin Special Education Mediation System helps parents and schools work together to resolve disputes about special education.
We do not provide legal advice or advocacy for either parents or districts, and we do not mediate 504 plan disputes.

Who Will Mediate Your Case

Remember, the WSEMS Intake Coordinator can help you select a mediator.

No easy formula can predict mediator competence. Understanding the basics of the mediation process can help you in the selection of the best mediator for your situation.  Consider the following questions and suggestions in making your decision.

Who Are the Mediators?

WSEMS, along with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, has a list of well-trained mediators. The mediators come from a wide range of professional backgrounds, including law, psychology, social work, business, and education. There is no advantage or disadvantage to having a lawyer or non-lawyer mediator. Each mediator has completed a five-day training on special education mediation. Each is also required to complete one day of training each year in order to remain active on the mediator roster.

After the parties agree to participate, they can nominate a mediator or WSEMS can work with the parties to nominate a mediator. If either (or both) parties object to the mediator, then WSEMS can suggests a different mediator. A mediator who is not on the list may be used, but at the parties’ expense.

The WSEMS Intake Coordinator asks both parties screening questions about the case, matches the needs of the individual case to the training, education, experience and personality of mediators on the roster and shares that information with the parties.

What Do You Want To Accomplish in Mediation?

  • Think about your goals for the session. Do you want a mediator who suggests options that may help parties move to an agreement? Or, do you want a mediator who does not offer many opinions so the parties feel more responsible for their agreement?
  • Think about your past attempts at negotiation. How did you negotiate? What are your strengths and weaknesses as a negotiator? What are the other party’s strengths and weaknesses? What are your emotional limitations?
  • Think about the dispute and the context in which you must resolve it. What is the time frame?
  • What are your choices if mediation does not work?

Compile a List of Names

A list of the mediators is found below. Review their biographies and discuss any questions with the WSEMS Intake Coordinator.

Word of Mouth

Ask a friend, other parents, parents’ organizations, your attorney, your therapist, another special education administrator / teacher about their experiences with different mediators.

Experience

People often ask whether a mediator should be an expert in the subject of the dispute. For example, should the mediator in a special education dispute be an expert in special education? In some cases, the parties may prefer a mediator with no special knowledge of the subject. Benefits of this approach include avoiding a mediator’s preconceived notions of what an agreement should look like and letting the parties come up with unique or creative alternatives.

In other cases, for example where the subject of the dispute is highly technical or complex, a mediator who comes to the table with some substantive knowledge could help the parties focus on the key issues in the dispute. Or, parties may want someone who understands a cultural issue or other issues in the process.