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Massachusetts law about special education

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on special education law.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.71B Children with special needs.

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

Massachusetts regulations

603 CMR 28 Special education regulations

Massachusetts state agency opinions

Bureau of Special Education Appeals 
Includes information on the process as well as decisions and rulings from 1998 to date

Federal laws

20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1482:  Individuals with disabilities education act (IDEA)

29 U.S.C. § 794 Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Federal regulations

34 CFR Part 300: Assistance to states for the education of children with disabilities

45 CFR 84: Nondiscrimination on the basis of handicap in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance

Selected case law

Champa v. Weston Public Schools, 473 Mass. 86 (2015). 
A "settlement agreement, regarding a public school's placement of a student who required special education services in an out-of-district private educational institution, between the public school and the parents of the student was exempt from the definition of “public records” ... and therefore not subject to disclosure... without a redaction of personally identifiable information..."

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, ___ U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 988 (2017).  
"If that is not a reasonable prospect for a child, his IEP need not aim for grade-level advancement. But his educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances, just as advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular classroom. The goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives."

Forest Grove School District v. T. A., 557 US 230 (2009)
"IDEA authorizes reimbursement for private special-education services when a public school fails to provide a FAPE and the private-school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special-education services through the public school."

Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, ___U.S.___, 137 S.Ct. 743 (2017). 
Students with disabilities may have protections under Section 504 as well as the IDEA. If a claim is filed under Section 504 and not tied to a denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE), exhaustion of remedies under the IDEA is not required.

Schaffer v. Weast, 546 US 49 (2005)
Attorneys for parents had argued that where a parent was dissatisfied with an IEP, the school district should bear the burden of proving an IEP sufficient, rather than the parents having to prove that it is insufficient. But the U.S. Supreme Court held that "the burden of persuasion in an administrative hearing challenging an IEP is properly placed upon the party seeking relief, whether that is the disabled child or the school district."

Web sources

Addressing the needs of students with disabilities in the IEP and in school bullying prevention and intervention efforts, Mass. Department of Education.

A guide to the turning 22 law, Mass. Rehabilitation Commission
"For young persons with severe disabilities still in need of services Chapter 688 serves as a bridge from educational services into the adult human services program." Explains who is eligible and how the process works.

Mass. approved private special education schools, Mass. Department of Education

MCAS alternate assessment, Mass. Department of Education
Provides links to requirements for participation, resource guide and more

Parents' how-to guide on children's mental health services in Massachusetts, 3d ed., 2011, Boston Bar Association
Includes steps for getting help, paying for services, services in your child's school, and more

Pro se guide: so you will be going to a special education hearing without a lawyer, Bureau of Special Education Appeals, August 2012 
Includes: Beginning the Hearing Process; How to File For a Hearing; What Happens Next; The Hearing; Expectations; and Definitions of Legal Terms and Special Education Jargon

Protections for students with disabilities who are being disciplined by school officials, Children's Law Center, June 2019
Explains the unique legal requirements for disciplining special needs students.

Special education, Mass. Department of Education
Includes information on IEP's, the law, resources for parents, and much more.

Special education in Massachusetts, Children's Law Center
Nice, clear guide to the special education process in Massachusetts from identification to assessment, IEP's and more.

Print sources

The complete IEP guide : how to advocate for your special ed child by Lawrence M. Siegel, Nolo, 2020.

Fundamentals of special education, Suffolk University Law School, Center for Advanced Legal Studies, 2014

IEP and 504 plan legal workshop, NBI, 2019

Nolo's IEP guide : learning disabilities by Lawrence M. Siegel, Nolo, 2020.

Special education law in Massachusetts, MCLE, 7th ed., 2018

Special education law from A to Z , NBI, 2018

Working with Children with Special Needs, MCLE, 2015



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Last updated: December 1, 2021