James Sands, Dubuque, IA

James Sands Portrait

Name: James Sands, Dubuque, Iowa

Availability: Statewide for mediation and IEP facilitation

Mediation and IEP Facilitation Experience:

As a skilled and experienced IEP facilitator, I provide a safe environment for parties as they work through the process in finding solutions to resolving IEP disagreements. For 23 years as a director of special education, I participated in over 100 mediations. I discovered early in my career the value of successful mediation as parents and the school worked together to reach an agreement. With both mediation andIE P facilitation, I learned to understand the importance of being impartial while guiding and providing leadership throughout the process. I currently serve as a mediator and group conference facilitator for the Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA.

Perspective Regarding Mediation/Facilitation:

As a special education mediator, I will create a safe and confidential place where both parties can explain their positions and interests. My role in mediation is to guide both parties as they create solutions and agreements. My role in IEP facilitation will be to help the team remain focused on the best interest of the student and to give everyone a voice. I will be an impartial 3rd party in both mediation and facilitation.


  • Bachelor of Science in Special Education, Mild, Moderate, and Severe Disabilities, University of Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa
  • Master of Science in Special Education, Behavior Disorders, Transition Services, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa
  • Education Specialist Degree, School Administration, Western Illinois University
  • Special Education Assistive Technology Coursework, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
  • Orthopedic and Other Health Impairment Coursework, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana
  • Positive Behavior Support (PBS) and Creative Problem Solving Institutes, Indiana State University
  • Autism Strategies Institute, 5 Day Intensive, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
  • Restorative Justice Mediation, Tippecanoe County Probation, Lafayette, Indiana
  • IEP Facilitation Institute, 5 Day Intensive, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana
  • Wisconsin Special Education Mediation System 5-Day Intensive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Mediation Dispute Resolution Course, Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Mediation and Group Conferencing, Northeast Iowa Community College, Dubuque, Iowa
  • Community Conversations, Strategies for Civil Discourse in Communities, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, and The University of Arizona, National Institute for Civil Discourse

Volunteer Experience:

  • Circles of Support Volunteer Team Member, Prison Ministries, Archdiocese of Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa
  • Restorative Practices Volunteer Mediator/Group Conference Facilitator, Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA

Work Experience:

As a specialist with the Transition Alliance Program (TAP) for the Dubuque Community Schools, I served in a facilitative role. My job was to team with the student, parents, IEP team members, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and post-secondary disability coordinators as we developed plans and implemented services. While working with everyone during the process, I ensured that the interests and goals of the student were heard clearly.

While serving as a community engagement specialist for the Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement (PACCE) at UW Platteville, I facilitated business partner and faculty discussion in engineering, science, and math as service learning projects were developed. As teams partnered, I promoted projects involving the design and development of assistive devices and adaptive equipment for children with autism, sensory challenges, and orthopedic impairments.

As a director of special education who participated in special education mediations for 23 years, my involvement continued even after the mediations ended. I followed up and worked closely with district staff to ensure that all parts of the mediation agreement were implemented as it was written in the agreement. My responsibilities encompassed a preschool to age 21 year old population, and I served as a principal for a preschool program. I also provided staff development for teachers and administrators on the legal aspects of the development, implementation, and monitoring of the Individual Education Plan (IEP).

As an adjunct professor for Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana and Indiana University Northwest, Gary, Indiana for 24 years, I promoted home school relationships along with quality and compliant IEP development in many of the courses I taught. Progress monitoring was also a topic that I addressed.

When serving as a special education teacher with the Dubuque Community Schools and a
consultant/diagnostician with Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency in Iowa, I utilized creative problem-solving strategies as a means to promote families and districts working together over an 8 year period. While teaming with parents of students I served, I learned to appreciate the importance of using positive reinforcement at school and at home.