COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS

DIVISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW APPEALS

BUREAU OF SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS

Report, Fiscal Year 2013

The Bureau of Special Education Appeals ("BSEA"), an independent subdivision of the Division of Administrative Law Appeals, conducts mediations and due process hearings[1] to resolve disputes among parents, school districts, private schools and state agencies. The BSEA derives its authority from both federal law and regulations (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, "IDEA") and Massachusetts law and regulations. (MGL ch.71B)

A parent or a school district may request mediation and/or a due process hearing on any matter concerning the eligibility, evaluation, placement, individualized education program (IEP), provision of special education or procedural protections for students with disabilities, in accordance with state and federal law. [2]

In addition, a parent may request a hearing on any issue involving the denial of the free appropriate public education guaranteed by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Mediations and hearings are conducted by impartial mediators and hearing officers who do not have personal or professional interests that would conflict with their objectivity in the proceeding. The BSEA consists of seven (six full time equivalent) hearing officers (all of whom are attorneys), seven mediators, a coordinator of mediation, a scheduling coordinator, administrative staff and a director.

What follows is a summary of BSEA data for fiscal year 2013 (covering the period July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013).

Rejected IEPs

There were approximately 8,860 rejected IEPs received by the BSEA during FY 2013 (representing an increase from the 8,460 received in the prior year).

Mediation  

There were 818 mediations conducted in FY 2013 (representing a decrease from the 917 conducted during the prior year), with an 86.2% success rate.

Due Process Hearings

There were 552 hearing requests received by the BSEA during FY 2013 (representing a slight decrease from the 582 requests in the prior year). The seven (six full time equivalent) BSEA hearing officers conducted full hearings resulting in 30 decisions (representing a decrease from the 52 decisions issued in the previous year). In addition to the 30 decisions, at least 37 substantive written rulings were issued (representing an increase from the 23 substantive rulings issued in the previous year).

Prevailing Party

Of the 30 decisions noted above, parents fully prevailed in 6 (20%), school districts fully prevailed in 19 (approximately 63%), 4 decisions involved mixed relief approximately (13%) and 1 decision (3%) involved an LEA assignment.

 

Representation

Statistics with respect to outcome in relation to representation are as follows:

 

Of the 6 cases in which parents fully prevailed:

        parents were represented by counsel in 5 and appeared pro se in 1;

        the school district was represented by counsel in all matters.

 

Of the 19 cases in which school districts fully prevailed:

        the school district was represented by counsel in all matters;

        parents appeared pro se in 14, were represented by counsel in 3 and by lay advocates in 2.

 

Of the 4 cases of mixed relief:

          parents were represented by counsel in 1 and appeared pro se in 3;

          the school district was represented by counsel in all matters.

 

In the 1 LEA assignment case:

        parents were not a party;

        school districts were represented by counsel.

 

 



[1] In addition to mediation and due process hearings (both of which must be offered pursuant to federal law), the BSEA offers the following alternative dispute resolution options: IEP Team meeting facilitations; settlement conferences; and advisory opinions.

 

[2] A school district may not, however, request a hearing on a parent's failure or refusal to consent to initial evaluation or initial placement of a child in a special education program, or to written revocation of parental consent for further provision of special education and related services.