Special Education Conflict Management at the School Building Level: A Multi-vocal Synthesis


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Virginia Tech


Research studies and commentaries have analyzed the formal mechanisms associated with special education conflict such as the use of mediation and impartial hearings to resolve disputes. However, specific information regarding the management of special education conflict at the school level is in shorter supply. This study addresses special education conflicts between school personnel and parents of children with disabilities to understand better how these conflicts might be managed more successfully. The purpose of this study was to develop recommendations and implications for managing special education conflicts at the school building level. Multi-vocal synthesis methods were used to collect and to analyze data in an iterative process incorporating results from a content analysis of previous research with analysis of interviews with stakeholders having a vested interest in managing special education conflict at the school level (Gersten & Baker, 2000; Ogawa & Malen, 1992).

Findings suggest that providing parents with evidence that their child’s needs are being met would pave the way for successful school-based special education conflict management. In conclusion, the participants indicated that conflicts could be avoided or managed successfully if school personnel could provide parents with clear evidence (a) that their child’s IEP was being followed in the classroom; (b) that accommodations were provided; (c) that staff were knowledgeable about providing services in an inclusive environment; (d) that administrators were knowledgeable about special education compliance issues; and (e) that staff would be held accountable for providing an appropriate education and for demonstrating trustworthy behavior.



specialized services, conflict resolution, IDEA, mediation, due process hearing, parents, partnerships, accountability, disabilities