Fiscal Year 2021 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 2021 (covering the period July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021).
There were approximately 11,331 rejected IEPs received by the BSEA during FY 2021, representing an increase from the 9,442 received in the prior year.
Facilitated IEP TEAM Meetings
This year the BSEA conducted 127 facilitated IEP Team meetings, an increase from the 77 conducted during the previous year. (Note that 29 requests for facilitated IEP Team meetings had to be declined by the BSEA this year owing to staff unavailability.)
There were 932 requests for mediation received in FY 2021, representing an increase from the 906 requests the prior year. BSEA mediators conducted 519 mediations in FY 2021, a decrease from the 573 conducted during the prior year, with an agreement rate of 79 %.
Due Process Hearings
The BSEA received 320 hearing requests during FY 2021, a decrease from the 379 requests received in the prior year. BSEA hearing officers conducted full hearings resulting in the issuance of 24 decisions (an increase from the 19 decisions issued in the previous year). In addition, 61substantive written rulings were issued (as compared to 44 in the previous year).
Prevailing Party: parents; public school district; other
Of the 24 decisions noted above, parents fully prevailed in 5, school districts fully prevailed in 15, and mixed relief was granted in 4.
Statistics with respect to outcome in relation to representation are as follows:
--of the 5 cases in which parents fully prevailed:
parents were represented by counsel in 3 matters, and by an advocate in 2 matters; the school district was represented by counsel in all 5 matters;
--of the 15 cases in which school districts fully prevailed:
parents were represented by counsel in 5 matters, by an advocate in 1 matter, and appeared pro se in 9 cases; the school district was represented by counsel in all 15 matters;
--of the 4 cases which involved mixed relief, parents were represented by counsel in 1, an advocate in 1 and were pro se in 2; the school district was represented by counsel in all 4 matters.
As of the date of this report (11/30) settlement conferences were held in 53 of the cases that were filed for hearing in FY 2021 (as compared to 68 in FY 2020 cases). Of these, 49 were settled, with a settlement rate of 90.5%.
 In addition to mediation and due process hearings (both of which must be offered pursuant to federal law), the BSEA offers alternative dispute resolution processes including IEP Team meeting facilitations and settlement conferences.
 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.