115C-109.4. Mediation.

(a) It is the policy of this State to encourage local educational agencies and parents to seek mediation involving any dispute under this Article, including matters arising before or after filing a petition under G.S. 115C-109.6.

(b) Mediation under this section must meet the following requirements:

(1) The mediation must be voluntary on the part of both parties.

(2) Mediation shall not be used to deny or delay a parent's right to an impartial hearing under G.S. 115C-109.6, or to deny any other rights afforded under this Article or IDEA.

(3) The mediation shall be conducted by a qualified and impartial mediator who is trained in effective mediation techniques.

(c) The State Board may establish procedures to offer to parties that do not choose to use the mediation process an opportunity to meet with a disinterested party, as provided under IDEA, who can encourage the use and explain the benefits of the mediation process to the parties. This meeting must be at a time and location convenient to the parents.

(d) The State Board shall maintain a list of qualified mediators who are knowledgeable in laws and regulations relating to the provision of special education and related services. When mediation is requested, the Exceptional Children Division of the Department of Public Instruction shall assign a mediator from this list of mediators.

(e) The State shall bear the cost of the mediation process, including the costs of meetings described under subsection (c) of this section, unless the parties opt to select a mediator other than the mediator assigned under subsection (d) of this section or if the parties opt to use an alternative method of dispute resolution.

(f) Each session in the mediation process shall be scheduled in a timely manner and shall be held in a location that is convenient to the parties to the dispute.

(g) Evidence of statements made and conduct occurring in a mediation are confidential, are not subject to discovery, and are inadmissible in any proceeding in the action or other actions on the same claim. However, no evidence otherwise discoverable is inadmissible merely because it is presented or discussed in a mediation. Mediators shall not be compelled in any civil proceeding to testify or produce evidence concerning statements made and conduct occurring in a mediation.

(h) When resolution is reached to resolve the dispute through the mediation process, the parties shall execute a legally binding agreement that:

(1) Sets forth the agreement.

(2) States that all discussions that occurred during the mediation process are confidential and may not be used as evidence in any subsequent impartial hearing under G.S. 115C-109.6 or in any civil proceeding.

(3) Is signed by both the parent and a representative of the local educational agency who has the authority to bind that agency.

(4) Is enforceable in any State administrative forum provided for in IDEA, any State court of competent jurisdiction, or in a district court of the United States.

(i) In addition to mediation as provided by this section, the parties may participate in a mediated settlement conference as provided by G.S. 150B-23.1. In addition, the parties may agree to use other dispute resolution methods or to use mediation in other circumstances, including after a request for formal administrative review is filed, to the extent permitted under State and federal law. (1973, c. 1293, s. 10; 1975, c. 151, ss. 1, 2; c. 563, ss. 8, 9; 1975, 2nd Sess., c. 983, ss. 79, 80; 1981, c. 423, s. 1; c. 497, ss. 1, 2; 1983, c. 247, s. 6; 1985, c. 412, s. 2; 1987, c. 827, s. 1; 1987 (Reg. Sess., 1988), c. 1079, s. 1; 1989, c. 362; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1058; 1991, c. 540, s. 1; 1991 (Reg. Sess., 1992), c. 1030, s. 27; 1993, c. 270, s. 1; 1997-115, s. 1; 2006-69, s. 2.)