Helpline & Pro Bono Legal Assistance
We provide help for children who are facing barriers to receiving educational supports and services to which they are legally entitled. Our priorities are children with disabilities, homeless children, children who have been expelled or suspended from school, and children traumatized by exposure to family violence or other adverse experiences.
Visit our the Helpline section of our website for more information.
MAC has always maintained a panel of private bar attorneys to take special education cases for children with disabilities of low-income clients on a pro bono basis. MAC identifies appropriate cases from calls to its Helpline and seeks an attorney willing and able to provide legal representation.
Building upon a growing pro bono relationship, in 2009 MAC and DLA Piper formalized a partnership whereby MAC’s pro bono advocacy serves as the firm’s signature project, the Education Rights Project. The firm’s litigators take pro bono cases of individual low-income clients, and the non-litigators assist in MAC’s systemic advocacy, conducting research, policy analysis and legislative outreach. This Education Rights Project is organized by DLA Piper in three areas that each include both case and systemic advocacy around special education: 1) statewide special education; 2) autism; and 3) Boston Public Schools. Each area is headed by a partner of the firm. We thank DLA Piper and its attorneys for their very generous support of education rights for children across the Commonwealth.
Other ways the private bar is involved in MAC project include participation in trainings that MAC offers, participation as members of the Coalition to Defend Special Education, and partnerships around specific legislative and administrative advocacy. Finally, private attorneys are active as volunteers at MAC: as board members and as Helpline staff.
Legislative and Administrative Advocacy
The heart of MAC’s work since its beginnings in the early 1970s has been to create new laws, policies and regulations to benefit children – including the first special education and bilingual education laws in the nation – and to hold accountable those institutions which are responsible for implementing and enforcing those laws, policies and regulations.
This type of advocacy is done with public and elected officials, whether in the state legislature, state departments, or local school districts, by combining technical expertise and political support from constituency groups.
Special Education Transition
Massachusetts Advocates for Children is a leader in advocating for appropriate transition services for students with disabilities. Services that address employment, education, vocational skill building, and daily living skills are critical for students as they transition from public school to adult life.
Through our cases, helpline, and community partners we learned of overwhelming obstacles for families in Boston. In response, MAC created the Boston Special Education Transition Project (BSET) in 2013 to help families get the services and supports that their children desperately need.
With its partners, MAC worked at the legislative and administrative level to create important rights for students as they transition from public school education to adult life.
The Coalition to Defend Special Education
The Coalition to Defend Special Education grew out of the statewide mobilization led by MAC in late 1990s-early 2000s to combat the legislative effort to erode parental and students special education rights under Chapter 766.
The Coalition is 400+ strong and is open to parents of children with disabilities, as well as private and public interest attorneys and advocates. The Coalition meets every two months and includes a training topic at each meeting.
For further information, or to join the Coalition, please contact Janine Solomon (617) 357-8431 ext. 223 firstname.lastname@example.org.