First, families who advocated more and had weak family-school partnerships were significantly more likely to file for due process or mediation (p’s\.0001). Because one piece of advocacy is understanding special education law (Trainor 2010), including conflict resolution procedures, parents who advocate more frequently may be more likely to know about mediation and due process and, because of their knowledge, more likely to utilize these procedures. In addition, poor family-school partnerships may increase the likelihood of conflict because the parent and the school do not trust each other (Fish 2008). Conversely, family-school partnerships may deteriorate after a family files for due process (Mueller 2009).
Second, child characteristics also significantly related to the use of procedural safeguards. Compared to students who spent a large majority of their day in the general education classroom, families of students who were included for only 0–20 % of their time were 1.92 times more likely to enact their safeguards. This finding aligns with previous research indicating that placement is a common issue in due process hearings among families of students with ASD (Mueller and Carranza 2011). Our data indicates that families may be arguing for more inclusive settings. Parents of children with ASD who spend most of their time in self-contained classrooms may have greater concerns about their child’s quality of instruction and staff (Ryndak and Downing 1996). Child age also related to the enactment of safeguards with parents of older students being significantly more likely to file mediation or due process. Given that family-centeredness decreases with age (Dunst 2002), parents of older students may be more likely to use safeguards.
Third, parent characteristics also related to the usage of procedural safeguards. Families with greater incomes were significantly more likely to file due process or mediation. Given the high costs of hearings (Mueller 2009), families with more money may be better positioned to file for due process. However, the issue of income may represent a larger challenge of access and for whom due process and mediation can be viable conflict resolution procedures. Being unable to afford attorney representation or secure legal advocacy services, families from lower income backgrounds may feel that due process is not an equitable process (Shemberg 1997).
- Dunst, C. J. (2002). Family-centered practices: Birth through high school. Journal of Special Education, 36, 139–147.
- Fish, W. W. (2008). The IEP meeting: Perceptions of parents of students who receive special education services. Preventing School Failure, 53, 8–14.
- Mueller, T. G. (2009). Alternative dispute resolution: A new agenda for special education policy. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 20, 4–13.
- Mueller, T. G., & Carranza, F. (2011). An examination of special education due process hearings. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 22, 131–139.
- Ryndak, D. L., & Downing, J. E. (1996). Parents’ perceptions of educational settings and services for children with moderate or severe disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 17, 106–118.
- Shemberg, A. (1997). Mediation as an alternative method of dispute resolution for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: A just proposal? Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, 12,739–757.
- Trainor, A. A. (2010). Diverse approaches to parent advocacy during special education home-school interactions: Identification and use of cultural and social capital. Remedial and Special education, 31, 34–47.