In A Reversal, Pennsylvania Will Now Allow Lawyers In Special Education Mediations

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Revising its prior guidance, the Pennsylvania Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR) will permit attorney participation in special education mediations beginning March 1, 2021.

Pennsylvania was one of only two states that expressly prohibited attorney attendance at special education mediation provided for under the IDEA. The change in the rule resulted from significant pressure by both parents and attorneys to open the proceedings to counsel.

Under this change, parents alone will determine whether attorneys will attend a mediation. School entities may have counsel attend only if the parents bring counsel to the mediation.

It remains unclear whether the process will change if attorneys are involved. However, it is possible that we may see more of a push on the part of the parents and their attorneys to use this option. As a result, school entities agreeing to mediation should ensure they know ahead of time if parents are bringing counsel and, if so, should be prepared to decide whether they wish to have their own counsel attend.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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