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Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Special Education Dispute Resolution (Spring 2019)

  • Course Number: LAW-832
  • Class Number: 03579
  • Instructor: Richard Erhard

Course Description

Requests for due process hearings in special education matters continue to escalate across the United States at an alarming rate. Local Education Agency (LEA) staff and their legal representatives find themselves increasingly inundated with complaints on a year-round basis, in contrast to what was a somewhat seasonal occurrence corresponding with the district calendar in years past. No matter the cause of this increase, the cost in human as well as fiscal resources is becoming a public policy matter with potentially negative implications for everyone concerned.

As with all other areas of law, traditional methods of resolving disputes are no longer adequate. In other words, the effectiveness of the adversarial system fails to meet current demands, and we must look to alternative strategies to resolve disputes. The question is, what are these systems and what do they look like? In the area of special education, institutionalized mediation has been required under the IDEA for years as a means to resolve disputes. Each public agency must ensure that procedures are established and implemented to allow parties to disputes…to resolve disputes through a mediation process 34 C.F.R §300.506 (a).                                                                                                                   

So, what exactly is special education mediation? Is it effective? What are its origins? Is it the same as mediation in the private sector? Is there a continuum of special education dispute resolution options? Do other alternatives exist? This course, designed for students enrolled in our J.D., LL.M. in ADR, Master of Dispute Resolution, ADR Certificate and general LL.M. programs with an interest in special education dispute resolution will address these questions as well as prospective solutions.

Learning Objectives


To reflect seriously on the dispute resolution continuum in order to increase alternatives.
To develop more effective negotiation skills through understanding the difference between, and applications for, distributive vs. integrative bargaining.
To understand the importance of neutrality, the perception of bias and the potential use of neutral third parties in dispute resolution to mitigate the effects of bias.
To identify and understand the steps in the mediation process as well as the difference between innovative mediation and institutionalized mediation.


Prerequisite(s): None

Co-Requisite (s): None

Concurrent Enrollment: None


Recommended Preparation: Familiarity with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA), Pub. L 108-446, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.


Grading – Numeric or CR/D/F


Course Notes

Grading for this course will utilize the rubric and criteria listed under the Description and Assessment of Assignments. Web-Enhanced assignments using Blackboard and simulations through Role-Play exercises will also be employed.


Required Readings and Supplementary Materials

Three textbooks are required for this course:

What Do I Do When…The Answer Book on Special Education Practice and Procedure, 2nd Edition Lake, LRP Publications (2014) [Available direct from LRP Publications, Palm Beach Gardens, FL., (561) 622-6520]

The Handbook of Dispute Resolution – 1st Edition Moffitt, Bordone, A Publication of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, Jossey –Bass (2005) [ISBN-13: 978-0787975388

ISBN-10: 0787975389] Available from

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition 2nd Edition P.W. D Wright, P.D Wright, Harbor House Law Press, Inc. (2007) [ISBN-13: 978-1892320162

ISBN-10: 1892320169] Available from

Description and Assessment of Assignments

There are three components to assignments and grading for this course: Class Attendance and Participation, Weekly Discussion Board Queries, and the Final Exam. These components and criteria for grading are described below:

Course Details

  • Unit Value: 2
  • Grading Options: Numerical or CR/D/F
  • Schedule: 1/11, 1/25, 2/8, 2/22, 3/8, 3/22, 4/5
  • Exam: In-class exam
  • Writing Requirement: No
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: Yes
  • Participation: Required and graded