The following are some of the most frequent questions we receive from parents. The answers are meant to provide a brief guide to your rights. However, each child and set of facts is unique. If you have a question about your son or daughter, please call our Helpline.
You are entitled to your son or daughter’s entire student record as soon as practicable and within 10 days of request. Copies of the record must be provided upon request; however, a reasonable fee (not to exceed cost of reproduction) may be charged. A fee may not be charged if such fee effectively prevents you from exercising your right to access your son or daughter’s record. (603 CMR 23.07). See our form letter to request records below.
If you are concerned about your child’s development you can send a letter to your son or daughter’s school district requesting evaluations to determine whether your son or daughter is entitled to special education services. Upon receipt of your request, the school district must provide a consent form within five school days. The consent form must propose assessments in all areas of suspected need and an educational assessment. You may also request additional evaluations, such as a health assessment, psychological assessment, and/or home assessment. The initial evaluation and/or re-evaluations must be completed within thirty school days after receipt of your consent to the evaluation. A Team meeting must be held within forty-five school days after receipt of your consent to the evaluation. Written reports of the evaluations must be made available to you at least two days in advance of the Team meeting, but only if the school district receives a written request for copies of the reports. (603 CMR 28.04, 603 CMR 28.05). See form letter requesting evaluation below.
Upon receipt of evaluation results, if you disagree with an initial evaluation or re-evaluation completed by the school district, then you may request an independent education evaluation conducted by qualified persons of your choosing. Your request for an independent evaluation should be in writing. The evaluation is free for students receiving reduced cost lunch and may be free or partially paid for by the school district depending on your family’s income. The right to a publicly funded independent evaluation continues for 16 months from the date of the evaluation with which the parent disagrees. Within five school days, the school district must respond by either agreeing to pay for the evaluation or proceeding to the Bureau of Special Education Appeals. You may seek an independent evaluation at any time if you pay for the evaluation on your own or with insurance. (603 CMR 28.04(5)). (Call our Helpline for suggestions on evaluators specializing in your son or daughter’s particular needs).
The IEP is a legally enforceable written document signed by you and developed by your son or daughters special education Team (you are a part of the Team). The IEP lists services designed to meet the unique needs of eligible students in order for them to make effective and meaningful progress. The IEP may also contain related services to help the student access the general education curriculum. Review all the services listed on the IEP service delivery grid. School districts are responsible for implementing the services that are accepted by you in the IEP.
Each eligible student’s IEP must be reviewed at least once a year and a full re-evaluation must be conducted by the school district at least every three years. If appropriate, you may request an earlier re-evaluation. (603 CMR 28.04)
The school district must provide special education and related services that are necessary for the student to make meaningful progress. You can partially reject the IEP if you believe the proposed services do not meet your son or daughter’s unique needs. You should clarify the specific issues you have with the IEP in writing. For instance, you might write that you want the school district to provide your son or daughter with all of the services outlined in the IEP but you do not agree that the proposed services are sufficient to meet your son or daughter’s needs. If you do not want your son or daughter to receive any special education services, you can reject the IEP outright. If a school district does not find that your son or daughter is eligible for special education, and you disagree, you should write a letter to the school district stating that you disagree.
The school district has extensive notice requirements and procedural obligations throughout the special education process. In addition, you may appeal to the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) if you disagree with the school district’s proposal. The BSEA conducts mediations and due process hearings to resolve disputes between parents and school districts. You may further appeal a decision by a BSEA hearing officer to state or federal court. MAC strongly encourages you to arrange for an independent evaluation and obtain legal advice before filing for a hearing or attending mediation.
If you partially reject an IEP, reject a proposed IEP outright, or a BSEA appeal is on going, your son or daughter stays in the last agreed-upon placement and receives the last agreed upon services, except in very specific circumstances. For instance, if during the 2009-2010 school year the school district provided Speech Therapy services to your son or daughter, and the service is removed in the 2010-2011 IEP, you can reject the removal of services, and assert your right to stay-put. Your son or daughter will continue to receive Speech Therapy until an IEP is accepted, or the school district files for a hearing at the BSEA and a hearing officer issues a decision that your son or daughter no longer requires the services. If your son or daughter has been placed out of school, is not receiving the last agreed-upon services, or a district files for hearing, seek legal advice.
If an evaluation indicates your son or daughter has a disability on the autism spectrum, the Team must specifically address needs related to the student’s verbal and nonverbal communication, development of social interaction, avoiding and responding to bullying, unusual responses to sensory experiences, resistance to environmental or routine changes, engaging in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, positive behavioral interventions, and any other needs resulting from the student’s disability that impact progress in the general curriculum, including social and emotional development. (M.G.L. c. 71B, § 3).
You (or an independent evaluator you have designated) have the right to observe your son or daughter’s current or proposed program. The school must grant access in a timely manner to enable you or your designated independent evaluator to evaluate your son or daughter’s progress and determine whether the current program or proposed program enables your son or daughter to make meaningful progress. A school district should not impose restrictions on your visit unless your visit would negatively affect the program or students. (M.G.L. c. 71B, § 3).
If your son or daughter’s evaluation indicates a disability of autism or any other disability that affects social interaction or has a disability that makes him or her vulnerable to bullying, harassment, or teasing, the IEP should address the skills necessary to avoid and respond to bullying, harassment, and teasing. (M.G.L. c. 71B, § 3).
All communications must be made in your primary language. The school district must have fluent interpreters available for all communications and meetings. Further, if you are unable to read or you are blind or deaf, communications must be made in a manner that ensures you understand them. (603 CMR 28.07(8)).
The following sample letters may be used to request records, evaluations, copies of evaluations, and independent evaluations: