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.


Differences between IEP facilitation and mediation

It is very important to pick the correct process that matches the needs, issues, goals and time requirements of the parties.

The goal of IEP facilitation is conflict prevention and specifically assisting the parties in developing or revising an IEP.  It is important to schedule the IEP facilitation early in the process before roadblocks or impasses have occurred.

In facilitation, there is a time limit of three hours to spend with the facilitator.  If parties anticipate that more time will be needed then they should request mediation.

The IEP process determines the process and the agenda pursuant to statutory requirements.  The parties stay together during the session.  There is no confidentiality law with regards to IEP facilitations.

The goal of mediation is much broader and can deal not only with the issues, but also with underlying interests and emotions.  The goal is conflict resolution – meaning that the conflict is already occurring, the parties may have reached impasse and there is a need for intervention because communication is already difficult.

There is no specific time limit in mediation – although the average is around four hours and one meeting.

There is no statutory requirement for the agenda of the meeting so there is a great deal of creativity – sometimes the parties meet together, sometimes separately.

In mediation, there is a specific confidentiality statute that applies to the process.

In both processes, the neutral professional keeps the focus on the student, manages group dynamics, validates the common interests, keeps the momentum flowing and the forward-looking, models good communication skills and ensuring that the students have a voice.

Please see our WSEMS video  in which Jane Burns, Intake Coordinator/Administrator and Nina Meierding, Mediation Partner, discuss the differences and similarities of IEP facilitation and mediation in order to help you select the most appropriate process for your situation.  The video is located at

    Contact WSEMS

    888-298-3857 (Toll Free Voice)
    608-283-9106 (Fax)

    PO Box 829
    Madison WI 53701-0829