SERC Scoop – February 2018

SERC Scoop

February 2018 SERC scoop

Special Education Resolution Center logo

What is SERC? 

The Special Education Resolution Center of OSU (SERC) has been collaborating with the Oklahoma State Department of Education for over 10 years to help families and school district resolve conflicts at the earliest stage possible. SERC provides services for children from birth to 3 in SoonerStart and for students 3 through 21 in public schools.

What Does SERC provide to schools, SoonerStart sites and families at no cost…?

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Communication Strategies:
Listen Deeply and
Demonstrate Understanding

Engaging Parents In Productive Partnerships

Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (2015).

There are things we can do to communicate more effectively when disagreements occur, opinions diverge and strong emotions are present.  The following strategies can go a long way toward resolving disagreements, improving relationships and producing positive outcomes for students with disabilities:

1. Help people be at their best
2. Treat others with respect
3. Get to the bottom of the concern
4. Listen deeply and demonstrate understanding

(Each topic will be fully discussed in a newsletter this year!)

Listen Deeply and Demonstrate Understanding

When communication becomes strained and tensions rise, it can be an indication that someone thinks they are being ignored, or believes their viewpoint is not being taken into consideration.  Under these circumstances, there is no better course of action than to pause, listen carefully, and then demonstrate to the speaker’s satisfaction that you understand his or her concerns.  Listening deeply to what a person is saying, both at the content and feeling level, can meaningfully expand our understanding of each other and potentially open up new opportunities for resolving disagreements.  

Demonstrating understanding involves reflecting back to the speaker our understanding of the message we received.  The reflection may include facts, feelings, values, and other important aspects of the communication until the speaker affirms that his or her message has been accurately understood.  When we demonstrate that we fully grasp what someone is saying, he or she becomes more available and more willing to hear fully what we have to say.

When parents feel understood and see their values, perspectives, and expertise about their child reflected in educational plans and interventions, they are more likely to support the resulting programs and aid in their implementation.  All of us are more likely to support plans and programs that we helped create.

In Conclusion

Educators devote themselves to developing students and helping them succeed.  These few brief suggestions are offered with the hope that they may help you transform potentially disruptive conflict into powerful collaborations that benefit you and your colleagues, parents, and ultimately, the students who depend upon all of you.

Effective, problem-solving processes typically involve all necessary participants, encourage all voices to be heard, explore underlying issues and concerns, and identify mutually agreeable next steps. If educators and parents alike feel respected and well-regarded by the other members of the student’s team, they are able to engage more productively in problem-solving. When those closest to the student communicate effectively about their differences and work together to make important educational decisions, everyone benefits.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)


Parents and school staff usually agree upon issues regarding evaluation, eligibility, program, and placement of students with disabilities. However, there are times when disagreement occurs.

Disagreements and conflict are often inevitable, but they need not produce negative results. If the parent and school are unable to resolve a conflict concerning a student with a disability, then mediation is an available alternative to a long and expensive due process hearing.

The mediator is a neutral third party and, therefore, has no power to make a decision regarding the dispute. He or she will listen and assist the parties in developing an acceptable solution to the problem. The mediator has been trained in a communication process to handle special education disputes.

Mediation in special education is a process to assist parents and schools in resolving disagreements regarding the education program of a student with disabilities.

A trained mediator works with both parties to guide them toward a mutually satisfactory solution in the best interest of the student. This occurs at a non-adversative meeting that is more structured than a parent-school conference but less formal than a due process hearing.

Mediation is a voluntary process. It is optional for both parties. The mediation session is completely confidential and encourages open communication.

Forms for requesting a mediation from SERC can be found at:

Oklahoma State Dept. of Education

Dr. Rosemarie Allen 

Oklahoma Department of Education, in collaboration with the Oklahoma Parent Center, is bringing Dr. Rosemarie Allen to speak to families and school districts about using culturally responsive practices. This important message will be presented in Oklahoma City on May 22, 2018 and in Tulsa on May 24, 2018.

Dr. Allen is a dynamic and interesting speaker. You can register for this conference on the Oklahoma Parents Center web page:

Rosemarie Allen has served as an educational leader for over 30 years. Her life's work is centered on ensuring children have access to high quality early childhood programs that are developmentally and culturally appropriate. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Her classes are focused on ensuring teachers are aware of how issues of equity, privilege, and power impact teaching practices.

Rosemarie has served in directorship roles with the Colorado Department of Human Services, most recently in the Division of Youth Corrections (DYC).  As Director of Programs at DYC, she was responsible for the education, health, and mental health of all adjudicated youth in the State. She was also responsible for the professional development of all Division staff members in order to ensure statewide culture change. From 2007-2012 Rosemarie served as the Director of the Division of Early Learning. In that role, she oversaw the State’s child care licensing program, the federal child care assistance program, the redesign of the State’s quality rating and improvement system, the implementation of the State’s professional development plan, and assisted in the creation of Colorado’s early learning guidelines.

Dr. Allen recently launched a new non-profit; the Institute for Racial Equity & Excellence (IREE) will serve as the lead agency for ensuring equity in educational practices throughout the nation. In July 2016, IREE was awarded a 1.5 million dollar contract to monitor and license child care centers using a model she created, “Culturally Responsive Community Based Licensing”. Rosemarie also serves on President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” (MBK) initiative, Early Childhood Task Force. She is also a national expert on implicit bias and culturally responsive practices, speaking at conferences across the country. Additionally, she created a course for MBK that will be distributed nationally in efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate preschool suspensions. The course focuses on racial equity in disciplinary practices.

Rosemarie is a respected keynote speaker, presenting on Implicit Bias, Racial Equity, Inclusive Practices, Culturally Responsive Practices, Cultural Competence, Micro-Aggressions, Disproportionality, Privilege, Power and Intersectionality, etc. She also has the distinct honor of being appointed as a “Global Leader” connecting with world leaders in early childhood across the globe. Rosemarie earned her B. A. from California State University, Long Beach, Master’s of Education from Lesley University and Doctorate in Equity and Leadership in Education at the University of Colorado, Denver.

Rosemarie is married to Don Allen and they have two amazing children. Jasmine is a Couples and Family therapist in Denver, Colorado and Clarence is a senior at Howard University in Washington, D.C. with aspirations of attending law school in the Fall.

SERC - Office of Special Education hdr

More OSEP / OSERS Letters 

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) is dedicated to improving results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities ages birth through 21 by providing leadership and financial support to assist states and local districts.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) authorizes formula grants to states and discretionary grants to institutions of higher education and other non-profit organizations to support research, demonstrations, technical assistance and dissemination, technology and personnel development and parent-training and information centers.

OSEP Policy Letters (Including OSEP Memos and Dear Colleague Letters)

OSEP Policy Letters provide information, guidance and clarification regarding implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) through two types of issuances: OSEP Memos and Dear Colleague Letters. Below is the link to the policy letters on line and a listing of the last 11 guidance documents issues and one on dispute resolution. 

The link below will take you to guidance issued since 2001.

Questions and Answers on US Supreme Court Case
Endrew F. vs Douglas County School District Re-1

On March 22, 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District Re-1, 137 S. Ct. 988. In that case, the Court interpreted the scope of the free appropriate public education (FAPE) requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Court overturned the Tenth Circuit’s decision that Endrew, a child with autism, was only entitled to an educational program that was calculated to provide “merely more than de minimis” educational benefit. In rejecting the Tenth Circuit’s reasoning, the Supreme Court determined that, “to meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP [individualized education program] that is reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” The Court additionally emphasized the requirement that “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.”

Link to "Questions and Answers on U.S. Supreme Court Case Decision Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District Re-1" PDF.

Upcoming Events and Special Topics

Upcoming Events & Special Topics

Archived Webinar"Nature vs. Nurture:  Our Brain’s Responses to Conflict" 
by Clare Fowler & Lesley Cook from September 21, 2016 (1 hour and 26 minutes)

This webinar will help us interpret our responses to anxiety and conflict, and learn how to model more effective behaviors to children. The IEP process can be the perfect time to teach children about collaborative, inclusive, interest-based decision making. As children observe effective techniques for dealing with anxiety, they will be better equipped for handling conflicts in the classroom and their family. Research covered will include causes for these conflict triggers i.e., lack of knowledge about the topic, pre-programmed opposition, a misunderstanding, pressure to have the conclusion before the meeting, personal trauma or history etc. We will discuss the frontal lobe's purpose as our thermostat and keeping everything in check. Finally, we will look at what research and techniques have been proven to help us have the conversation we want, even in the midst of high anxiety and conflict.

Conferences – 
Oklahoma Parents Center annual Conference
    - May 22 (Oklahoma City)
    - May 24 (Tulsa)