chapter  13
Building Trust and Responding to Confl ict in Special Education
ByBarbara J. Lake, Art Stewart
Pages 14

An under-researched but critical area of study for special education leaders is confl ict and confl ict resolution. Collectively, school districts across the United States are spending more than $90 million per year in confl ict resolution (Mueller, 2009). Due to its costly nature (both in terms of fi nancial costs as well as emotional costs), it is important to understand the specifi c complexities that accompany special education confl icts. Stakeholders have vested interests in resolving confl icts as economically and as expeditiously as possible; however, data indicate that few of the stakeholders (parents, special educators, and school administrators) have had formal or suffi cient training in understanding and responding to confl ict (Schrag & Schrag, 2004). While research in special education confl ict resolution is limited (Lake & Billingsley, 2002; Mueller, 2009; Nowell & Salem, 2007; Reiman et al., 2007; Schrag & Schrag, 2004), there is robust dialogue conducted in on-line environments, at conferences, and in trainings focused on enhancing practice and eff ectiveness in resolving special education disputes. There is mounting concern for the prevention of relationship-damaging confl ict as well as careful handling of confl icts to preserve present and future parent-school relationships. Developing and protecting collaborative working relationships between parents and school personnel have been identifi ed as key elements in the success of special education programs, leading to improvement in educational outcomes (Nowell & Salem, 2007).