COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS

DIVISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW APPEALS

BUREAU OF SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS

 Fiscal Year 2016 Report

The Bureau of Special Education Appeals ("BSEA"), an independent subdivision of the Division of Administrative Law Appeals, conducts mediations and due process hearings to resolve disputes among parents, school districts, private schools and state agencies. [1]  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 a 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 comprises 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 2016 (covering the period July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016).

Rejected IEPs

There were approximately10,800 rejected IEPs received by the BSEA during FY 2016 (representing an increase from the 10, 280 received in the prior year).

Facilitated IEP TEAM Meetings

This year the BSEA facilitated 135 IEP Team meetings, an increase from the 127 conducted during the previous year. (Note: An additional 66 requests for Team meeting facilitations had to be declined this year owing to staff unavailability.)

Mediation

There were 778 mediations conducted in FY 2016 (representing an increase from the 733 conducted during the prior year), with an agreement rate of  85.9%.

Due Process Hearings

The BSEA received approximately 568 hearing requests during FY 2016 (representing an increase from the 492 requests in the prior year). BSEA hearing officers conducted full hearings resulting in 23 decisions (representing an increase from the 18 decisions issued in the previous year). In addition at least 48 substantive written rulings were issued.

            Prevailing Party

            Of the 23 decisions noted above, parents fully prevailed in 4, school districts fully prevailed in 16, mixed relief was awarded in 2, and 1decision involved an LEA assignment case.

           Representation

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

            Of the 4 cases in which parents fully prevailed:

            parents were represented by counsel in 2 and appeared pro se in 2;

            the school district was represented by counsel in all 4 matters.

            Of the 16 cases in which school districts fully prevailed:

            the school district was represented by counsel in 15 matters; parents were represented by counsel in 7 matters, by an advocate in 1 matter and appeared pro se in 8 cases.

            Of the 2 cases of mixed relief:

            parents were represented by counsel in 1 and appeared pro se in 1; the school district was represented by counsel in both matters.

            In the 1 LEA assignment case:

            parents were not a party.

 

Settlement Conferences

As of the date of this report, settlement conferences were held in 89 of the cases that were filed for hearing in FY2016, of which 82 were settled.

 

 

 



[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.