SEMS provides mediation, facilitation and training services that help parents and schools work together.

Our primary goal is to build cooperation and teamwork with parents and educators to improve outcomes for students.

For example, we can help if you are facing complex issues, there is disagreement over how special education supports and services are provided, or trust is lacking among team members.

Everything is FREE, even the phone call. SEMS services are provided in all parts of the state at no cost.

SEMS is an Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Grant Funded Initiative through the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education.

In person or virtually, depending on how the parties want to hold the meeting.

SEMS can provide a virtual platform if requested. In-person meetings are usually held in a school building.

YES. SEMS mediators and facilitators support collaboration, communication and problem-solving involving any special education matter, so that the IEP team can focus on the educational needs of the student.

NO, SEMS does not provide advocacy or legal advice to either parents or schools.

We are a neutral service that helps students, parents and educators work together to solve problems and improve educational outcomes. Parents can access additional support services from the Michigan Alliance for Families (MAF) another MDE OSE Grant Funded Initiative. MAF has parent mentors who can share information on how to support your child. Learn more at michiganallianceforfamilies.org.

You can either call 833-Kids-1st (833-543-7178) or use the contact form on the mikids1st.org website.

Compare your resolution options here.

Mediation and Facilitation

Mediation is a way to work to resolve a dispute. It is a voluntary and confidential negotiation led by a trained and impartial mediator who helps resolves differences when not everyone has the same ideas.

Learn more about mediation.

They are trained professionals. SEMS has a roster of experienced mediators located across the state. They come from a variety of backgrounds, including law, social work, psychology, and education, but are not affiliated with a school district, ISD or parent group. They are highly skilled in mediation and knowledgeable about the IDEA and the special education process.

No. Per IDEA, mediators are selected on a random, rotational, or otherwise impartial basis from the list of qualified mediators maintained by the State. The State’s selection of mediators on an impartial basis would include permitting the parties involved in a dispute to agree on a mediator.

The agreement is recorded in writing and signed by both the parent and the school agency representative.

Mediation agreements are legally binding and enforceable in court.

There are multiple choices.

If you do not reach an agreement, you can try mediation again, use another IDEA dispute resolution option (a state complaint or due process complaint) or continue to work toward resolution on your own.

SEMS must keep a record that the mediation session happened and that an agreement was not reached. You will be asked to sign a SEMS form stating that no agreement was reached. 

There is no penalty if you are not able to reach an agreement, and all conversations in the mediation session remain confidential.

There is no impact on the complaint, unless it is withdrawn after an agreement is reached.

Agreeing to participate in mediation does not automatically stop the state complaint investigation. If mediation is requested after the complaint is filed, both parties may – but do not have to – agree to request that the Office of Special Education (OSE) extend the final decision deadline. If the issues are not resolved and the OSE will complete the investigation and issue a final report.

A qualified SEMS facilitator guides the established meeting process and helps participants sort through information in an efficient manner, communicate effectively and maintain focus on the student.

Learn more about facilitation.

Any special education meeting can be facilitated.

These include any Individualized Education Program, Individualized Family Service Plan, Manifestation Determination Review, Due Process Resolution Session and Behavior Intervention Plan meetings, or simply when the issues are complex and require focus.

SEMS is an IDEA grant-funded program through the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education. For matters involving Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act,  SEMS can only provide mediation and meeting facilitation services if there is a disagreement about eligibility for services under the IDEA (or about whether the student is eligible for an IEP).

Mediation is helpful when there is a disagreement that parties want to resolve with a written agreement. Facilitation is helpful in every other situation.

Mediation is a formal dispute resolution process. The mediator leads the mediation session and actively works to resolve disputes between parents and school districts.

Facilitation provides a neutral person to support effective communication at a special education meeting, such as an IEP.





Resolve a specific dispute

Complete the meeting efficiently and collaboratively


Mediator establishes

School establishes

Who attends

People who disagree

Special education team

Existence of sides

Mediator must be neutral

Facilitator must be neutral

Call the SEMS central office at 833-Kids-1st (833-543-7178) or fill out a service request form on our website, mikids1st.org.

Our central intake specialists will work with you to arrange services based on your needs ensure neutrality among all parties. The intake specialist will not be your mediator/facilitator. SEMS will assign a qualified mediator/facilitator from a statewide roster. Sessions generally take place as quickly as the participants’ schedules allow.

You will be asked questions to help the mediator/facilitator prepare for your meeting.

This information can include the student’s age, grade level and disability; the student’s school district; what your concerns are; and whether a state or due process complaint has been filed. Our intake specialists can help you decide which services would work best for your situation if you are not sure.

Yes. The information provided during the central intake process is stored in a secure database.

Also, everyone associated with the SEMS program is required to keep information confidential.

No, SEMS services are voluntary. Plus, both parties must agree to mediation or facilitation for SEMS to provide the service.


SEMS offers workshops on the following subjects:

  • Dispute Resolution Options in Special Education
  • Effective IEP Team Meeting Participation Techniques
  • Engaging Families
  • Meeting Management
  • Conflict Resolution and Communication in Special Education
  • Restorative Practices in Special Education
  • Discipline for Students with Disabilities
  • Customized topic upon request

Visit mikids1st.org/training for a complete list.

Training participants vary but often include parents and caregivers, school district staff, ISD staff and community organizations. We will customize trainings based on your group's availability and interests.

They are free to any organization that serves students with disabilities.

Hosting organizations will be asked to print training materials and provide meeting arrangements.

Locally on-site, or virtually. For in-person sessions, the hosting organization arranges the location, promotion, registration and refreshments. Trainings can also be provided virtually.

Organizations can schedule a training by calling 833-543-7178 or via our request services form at mikids1st.org/request-services.

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