COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
DIVISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW APPEALS
BUREAU OF SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS
Fiscal Year 2017 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.  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. 
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 six hearing officers (all of whom are attorneys), six mediators, a coordinator of mediation, a scheduling coordinator, administrative staff and a director.
What follows is a summary of BSEA data for fiscal year 2017 (covering the period July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017).
There were approximately 11,400 rejected IEPs received by the BSEA during FY 2017 (representing an increase from the 10,800 received in the prior year).
Facilitated IEP TEAM Meetings
This year the BSEA facilitated 118 IEP Team meetings, a decrease from the 135 conducted during the previous year. (Note: seven requests for Team meeting facilitations had to be declined by the BSEA this year owing to staff unavailability.)
There were 742 mediations conducted in FY 2017 (representing a decrease from the 778 conducted during the prior year), with an agreement rate of 83.8%.
Due Process Hearings
The BSEA received approximately 495 hearing requests during FY 2017 (representing a decrease from the 568 requests in the prior year). BSEA hearing officers conducted full hearings resulting in the issuance of 22 decisions (representing a slight decrease from the 23 decisions issued in the previous year). In addition, 50 substantive written rulings were issued (as compared to 48 in the previous year).
- Prevailing Party
Of the 22 decisions noted above, parents fully prevailed in 7, school districts fully prevailed in 10, mixed relief was awarded in 3 , and 2 decisions involved appeals of LEA assignments.
Statistics with respect to outcome in relation to representation are as follows:
Of the 7 cases in which parents fully prevailed:
parents were represented by counsel in 4 and appeared pro se in 3 ;
the school district was represented by counsel in all 7 matters.
Of the 10 cases in which school districts fully prevailed:
the school district was represented by counsel in all 10 matters;
parents were represented by counsel in 2 matters, by an advocate in 2 matters and appeared pro se in 6 cases.
Of the 3 cases of mixed relief:
parents were represented by counsel in all 3 ;
the school district was represented by counsel in all 3 matters.
In the 2 LEA assignment appeals: parents were not a party and all LEAs had counsel.
As of the date of this report, settlement conferences were held in 69 of the cases that were filed for hearing in FY 2017, of which 61 were settled.
 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.
 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.