Special education dispute resolution trends largely return to pre-pandemic levels

Dive Brief:

  • The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE) has released data for the 2021-22 school year, showing a return to pre-pandemic levels of activity in special education dispute resolution.
  • During the pandemic 2020-21 school year, the number of due process complaints filed dropped by 29% compared to previous years, excluding New York state.
  • The data from the 2021-22 school year shows positive trends, including an increase in mediation requests and agreements reached voluntarily, as well as a higher rate of agreements made during mandatory resolution periods, according to CADRE.

Dive Insight:

The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE) emphasizes the benefits of early and voluntary mediation as a less adversarial and costly approach to resolving school-family disagreements. The organization notes that mediation often leads to higher compliance rates with agreements reached between the parties involved.

CADRE is pleased to see the increase in mediation requests and expects this to be a positive trend moving forward, according to Melanie Reese, director of CADRE.

In terms of more formal dispute resolution, CADRE reports 11,290 due process complaints filed in 2021-22, slightly below the 10-year average. However, when including data from New York state, the number jumps to 29,490, representing a significant increase over the previous 10-year period.

The available data for New York state indicates a rising trend in due process complaints filed since the 2015-16 school year. The number of resolution meetings held in New York has also increased during this time.

CADRE plans to release a national longitudinal database in the coming weeks, allowing for comparisons of dispute resolution data across states from 2004 to the present.

In the 2021-22 school year, there was a 47% increase in written state complaints compared to the previous year. This upward trend follows a period of relative stability between the 2011-12 and 2019-2020 school years.

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