Special Education

Special education rights provide qualified students with a disability that affects their ability to learn in school certain protections, accommodations, or modifications to their education.  Special education law is governed by the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Act 2004 (IDEA) and attendant regulations.  Attorneys practicing in Massachusetts are advised to consult state special education regulations which, for the most part, mirror the federal ones.  Additionally, Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2009 require schools, among other federally funded agencies, to accommodate people with disabilities. Read More . . .


The prevailing authority on school discipline is the U.S. Supreme Court case Goss v. Lopez  which established due process rights for students in disciplinary proceedings.  Massachusetts has encoded its own school discipline due process in Massachusetts General Law Chapter 71 Section 37 H37 H1/2 and 37 H3/4 and attendant regulations at 603 CMR 53.

Special education students  facing discipline have additional protections pursuant to the 2004 amendments to section 615(k) of the IDEA called a manifestation determination meetingThe US Department of Education has a useful Q & A page about disciplining special education students and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has a helpful flowchart outlining the process.

School Stability

  • The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act  is a federal law first enacted in 1987 to ensure educational rights and protections for homeless students. Prior to the passing of this Act, a homeless student would experience significant disruption of his or her education due to numerous school transfers. The Act defines homeless students, outlines their rights, and requires that school districts assign a liaison to facilitate their enrollment in school.  Read more . . .
  • DOE guidance on the McKinney-Vento Act
  • The Legal Center for Foster Care & Education has created the Blueprint for Change: Education Success for Children in Foster Care which consists of 8 goals and 56 corresponding benchmarks to serve as a framework or checklist for direct case advocacy and system reform.

English Language Learners

In 2002, Massachusetts voters affirmed a ballot initiative requiring that public school students be taught all subjects (with limited exceptions) in English and be placed in English Language classrooms. As a result, districts had to change the way they educated students who are English Language Learners (ELL).  Districts can support ELL students through Sheltered English Instruction (SEI) classrooms, two-way bilingual classrooms, or English Language acquisition services. Read more . . .

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

  • General Information
  • Program Quality Assurance Services (PQA) implements the Department’s compliance monitoring and complaint management procedures for school districts, charter schools, educational collaborative, and approved public and private day and residential special education schools and provides technical assistance to school personnel and the public regarding the implementation of laws and regulations.
  • The Bureau of Special Education Appeals (“BSEA”) conducts mediations, advisory opinions and hearings to resolve disputes among parents, school districts, private schools and state agencies concerning eligibility, evaluation, placement, individualized education programs (IEPs), special education services and procedural protections for students with disabilities.
  • BSEA Hearing Rules
  • Office for Civil Rights

Massachusetts Education Advocacy and Policy Organization Links

Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
Massachusetts Advocates for Children
Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice

National Education Advocacy and Policy Organization Links

Dignity in Schools

Professional Resources

Please reference this performance standards handout to see what the CPCS Performance Standards say about education advocacy.

Quick Reference Guides

Special Education

Additional Resources