SPEDWatch stops districts from requiring parents to waive special education rights
A parent alerted SPEDWatch that her school district was requiring her to waive her legal rights under special education law as a condition of attending a virtual team meeting to discuss her child’s IEP. Within four days SPEDWatch had confirmed that this was happening in school districts across Massachusetts, reached out to thousands of families with information on how to communicate with their school districts, filed state complaints against a dozen school districts, and made sure the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education addressed the matter with special education directors statewide.
SPEDWatch reverses noncompliant Methuen ESY policy
SPEDWatch has successfully reversed a Methuen Public Schools’ Extended School Year (ESY) policy that would have resulted in children with disabilities who needed this service to miss out on it. ESY refers to educational services that are delivered to students with disabilities during the summer months. These services are vital to a child’s ability to maintain or improve functioning. Whether or not a student will receive ESY services is a decision made by a Team of individuals who are most familiar with that child’s unique needs. Methuen’s policy removed the decision making authority from that Team and tied eligibility for ESY services to a district developed, arbitrary regression/recoupment measure. SPEDWatch filed a state complaint against Methuen with regard to this policy and it was found to be noncompliant with special education law. The policy has since been changed.
Georgetown must remove erroneous information from district website
When SPEDWatch learned that the Georgetown Public Schools was posting information on its website that did not comply with special education regulations, it wrote to the district (twice) asking that the information be corrected. Georgetown ignored both letters. SPEDWatch then filed a complaint against the district with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE.) DESE found that the information on the district’s website, which described parent rights to an independent evaluation, was noncompliant. DESE ordered the information be corrected.
Evaluation Consent Form gets an important revision
There is a little known clause in the Massachusetts special education regulations that requires a school district to give parents access to any evaluation report at least two days before it is discussed at a Team meeting, but only if the parent requests that early access. Since most parents don’t know about this right, many times they do not see evaluations until they arrive at the meeting. SPEDWatch asked the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to add a check box to the form with text reading “I request access to all evaluation reports at least two days prior to Team discussion.” Ten months and five follow up letters later, the revision was finally made. Now parents are prompted to exercise this right if they so desire.
Pembroke summer transportation policy found noncompliant
When a Pembroke parent was told that the school district would not provide her son with transportation to and from his Extended School Year (summer) services, she turned to SPEDWatch who immediately contacted the school district’s director of special education. Informed of the law that required Pembroke to provide the transportation, the director continued to refuse, stating that SPEDWatch was misinterpreting the law. A state complaint filed by SPEDWatch resulted in a finding of noncompliance against Pembroke and a correction to their ESY transportation policy.
Press & Publications
MCAS Results: Students With vs Without Disabilities 2003 to 2019
Broken Promises: Special Education in Massachusetts (April 2007)
Fighting for Their Future (Cape Cod Magazine September 2008)
Confronting the silent crisis in special education (The Arc, Fall 2008)