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Massachusetts law about education

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on education and educational testing law by the Trial Court Law Libraries.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

St.2020, c.56, §§ 6-7 Due to COVID-19, removes the MCAS requirement for graduation and for all students in the 2019-2020 school year.

MGL c.69 Department of Education

MGL c.71 Public schools

MGL c.71A Bilingual education

MGL c.71B Students with special needs

  • MGL c.71B § 5A Special education reimbursement program, effective February, 2020

MGL c.72 School registration

MGL c.76 School attendance

MGL c.271, § 50 Selling papers or taking exams for another

Old Deluder Satan law: Established mandatory public education in Massachusetts (1647)

St. 1993, c.71 Education reform act

Massachusetts regulations

603 CMR Department of Education

Massachusetts Executive Orders

EO 393 Establishes the Educational Management Accountability Board to monitor the attainment of goals of the Education Reform Act.

EO 410 Establishing the Governor's Design Team on Teacher Professional Development and Support

Selected case law

Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, 468 Mass. 64 (2014)
Discussion of the history of the pledge of allegiance (pledge) and of Federal case law concluding that recitation of the pledge is a fundamentally patriotic exercise, not a religious one. Statement that no Massachusetts school student is required by law to recite the pledge of allegiance (pledge) or to participate in the ceremony of which the pledge is a part.

Doe No. 1 v. Secretary of Education, 479 Mass. 375 (2018)
Law limiting the number of charter schools upheld. In this case, plaintiff students "failed to state a claim under the education clause because, to state a claim, the plaintiffs would need to plead facts suggesting not only that they have been deprived of an adequate education but also that the defendants have failed to fulfil their constitutionally prescribed duty to educate.... Furthermore, even if the plaintiffs had successfully stated a claim under the education clause, the specific relief that they seek would not be available. The education clause provides a right for all the Commonwealth's children to receive an adequate education, not a right to attend charter schools."

Hancock v. Commissioner of Education, 443 Mass. 428 (2005)
The plaintiffs alleged that the Commonwealth was violating its constitutional obligation to educate children in poorer communities. The court declined to adopt the conclusion of a Superior Court judge that the Commonwealth was not meeting its obligation under the Massachusetts Constitution.

Massachusetts Federation of Teachers v. Board of Education, 436 Mass. 763 (2002)
The court upheld the Board's regulations that require mandatory assessment of math teachers in certain schools

Millis Public Schools v. M.P., 478 Mass. 767 (2018)
Truancy. We conclude that a child "willfully fails to attend school" when he or she acts purposefully, such that his or her behavior arises from reasons portending delinquent behavior.." The court vacated a CRA judgment where "where nothing in the record suggested that the child's behavior exhibited problems or tendencies that could lead toward juvenile delinquency, and where nothing in the record showed that a modification of the child's custody arrangements would help improve the child's attendance record."

Opinion of the Justices to the Governor, 372 Mass. 874 (1977) 
Public school teachers and students cannot be disciplined for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943) 
Requiring students to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance violates First Amendment rights.

Federal law

20 USC 6301 et seq . No Child Left Behind Act


Web sources

EEC background record checks, Dept. of Early Education and Care
The regulations require a review of both the criminal history (CORI) and the DSS background of all individuals age 15 and over who have the potential for unsupervised contact with children.

Beyond financial aid: A guide to extra help for low-income adult students, Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, and Ruthie Liberman, Crittenton Women’s Union
"Public programs can offer support, but sometimes the rules about who is eligible for public benefits, such as housing assistance, food stamps, or unemployment insurance, are different for students. This booklet will help you determine which public benefits may be available to you and your family while you go to school."

Education for homeless children and youths program: Non-regulatory guidance, US Dept. of Education, 2016.
Homeless Student Guidance.

Educational rights of homeless children and youths under the McKinney-Vento Act, US Dept. of Education, 2016
Policy letter on homeless students' rights and protections.

Equal access to public education for all students irrespective of immigration status: Attorney General Advisory, March 2, 2017.
"State and federal law require state educational agencies and local school districts to provide all elementary and secondary students with equal access to public education—irrespective of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or immigration status."

MCAS results, Mass. Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education

The McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act: Education rights for homeless youth, Children's Law Center
Explains educational rights of homeless children. ""McKinney" is a federal law that requires all homeless youth to have access to the same free and appropriate public education that is provided to all other children. McKinney states that homelessness alone is not a sufficient reason to separate students from the mainstream school environment."

New law suspends MCAS tests for current school year, WBUR, April 11, 2020.

Student testing, Mass. Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education
Includes information on MCAS.

Students with comfort care/do not resuscitate orders, Mass. Dept. of Education, August 27, 2017
"In response to requests from several Massachusetts school districts, the following guidelines for the care of students with Comfort Care/Do Not Resuscitate Orders were developed in consultation with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) Office of Emergency Medicine and the MDPH Legal Office."

Supporting the success of homeless children and youths, US Dept. of Education, 2016.
A fact sheet with tips for teachers, principals, school leaders, counselors, and other school staff

Print sources

19th Annual School Law Conference, MCLE, 2019

Campus sexual assault: emerging issues in Title IX investigations and litigation, MCLE, 2017

College and university law manual, MCLE, loose-leaf

Education law, Matthew Bender, loose-leaf

Educational expenses and credits, BNA, loose-leaf

The law of schools, students, and teachers in a nutshell, West Academic, 2018

Massachusetts school law sourcebook and citator, MCLE, annual

Requirements for the participation of students with disabilities in MCAS: a Guide for Educators and Parents/Guardians, Massachusetts Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2011.

School law in Massachusetts, MCLE, loose-leaf

Student loan law, NCLC, 2019

"When good intentions go bad: The MCAS graduation requirement and special education children," by James M. Baron, 40 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 123 (2006)



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


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Last updated: June 19, 2020