Massachusetts law about special education

Laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on special education law.

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for, or if you have a specific question, please contact our law librarians for assistance.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.6, § 133G Braille instruction for registrants; assessment
Massachusetts Braille Literacy Law. Affords legally blind adults the right to learn Braille through the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.

MGL c.71B Children with special needs; including:

  • § 3 Identification of school age children with a disability [...]
    Entitles school-age children who are deemed legally blind to receive Braille instruction as part of their school's special education services.
  • §§ 12A - C Transitional planning ("Turning 22"); provides a transitional planning process for eligible people with disabilities who will lose special education services upon graduation or upon turning 22.

MGL c.111G Early childhood intervention services

MGL c.151C, § 2(e) Unfair practices
Schools may not exclude any student from admission because the student is blind or deaf or requires the use of a guide dog.

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 cases

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. Dept. of Education.

Learn about education rights, Mass. Office on Disability.

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

MCAS alternate assessment, Mass. Dept. 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.

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. Dept. 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.

Transition services for students and youth, Mass. Rehabilitation Commission.
MRC has many services to help high school students in special education programs prepare for work, get a job, gain leadership skills, and live on their own. Pre-employment transition services can start at age 14 and are available until a youth graduates high school or turns 22. Explains who is eligible and how the process works.

Print sources

The complete IEP guide : how to advocate for your special ed child by Lawrence M. Siegel, Nolo, 2023. (eBook available at link with library card)

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

IEP and 504 plan legal workshop, NBI, 2020.

Nolo's IEP guide : learning disabilities by Lawrence M. Siegel, Nolo, 2020. (eBook available here with library card).

Special education and the law : a guide for practitioners by Allan G. Osborne Jr. 4th ed. Corwin, 2021.

Special education law in Massachusetts, 8th ed., MCLE, 2020.

Special education law from A to Z, NBI, 2018.

Working with children with special needs, MCLE, 2015.

Contact for Massachusetts law about special education

Last updated: September 18, 2023

Help Us Improve with your feedback