The NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) is presently piloting a new program of IEP Facilitation. The initiative is in four districts in NJ-Hamilton, Elizabeth, Cherry Hill, and Plainsboro, and will be launched statewide in the 2017-18 school year.
The effort is designed to promote productive child-centered IEP meetings that are conducted in a respectful and collaborative manner and to maximize district level capacity to develop child-centered IEPs and minimize state level procedural protections and interventions which result from ineffective IEP meetings.
States and school districts are increasingly turning toward this less costly measure and are reporting improved relationships between school districts and parents, a greater number of mutually agreed upon IEPs, and a reduction in the number of districts and parents utilizing formal dispute resolution options. As a result of the interest in IEP Facilitation among districts and parents in New Jersey, the NJDOE, OSEP is piloting an IEP Facilitation Process.
Q: What is IEP facilitation?
A: IEP facilitation is a process that fosters effective communication between parents and school districts as they develop a mutually agreed upon IEP. This process may be used as a preventative measure in which a trained facilitator promotes whole team participation, acknowledging and addressing differing opinions in a respectful and neutral manner. IEP facilitation can improve the relationships between school districts and parents in order to effectively plan services to meet student needs.
State-sponsored IEP facilitation is a voluntary service offered at no cost to districts and parents of students with disabilities. A parent or school district representative may make the request for the state-sponsored facilitator.
Q: What is the role of the state-sponsored facilitator?
A: An IEP facilitator focuses on the process of the meeting and supporting all parties’ full participation. The facilitator is not a member of the IEP team or advocate for any person on the team. The IEP facilitator is not an employee of the school district or OSEP. The facilitator does not make decisions for the group. The facilitator keeps team members on task, clarifies points of agreement and disagreement, and provides team members opportunities to consider alternative options. The parameters of confidentiality apply to all IEP meetings, including facilitated IEP meetings.
Q: Why is this being offered?
A: This is a proactive measure being taken by the DOE as an option before filing a due process complaint or mediation. A third party (state-sponsored facilitator) will be provided to promote effective communication and assist the IEP team in developing a mutually acceptable IEP. If a district and parent are already involved in due process or a complaint, then this service cannot be accessed. Both parties have to agree to participate; the assistance request may be initiated by either party.
For more information or to download a Facilitated IEP Request Form, please visit the NJDOE website or contact OSEP directly after July 1; information may be available as soon as May.
To learn more, go to http://www.state.nj.us/education/specialed/ or call 609-292-0147.