and due process in Massachusetts
Is it true that when
a hearing goes all the way to a final determination, the school districts
"win" more than they lose?
This statistic by itself ignores the fact that school
districts who know that their case is weaker will settle with parents
before a final determination. The settlement can happen at different
stages. For example, it can be:
- As soon as they know you have a lawyer;
- When you've created a wonderful paper trail as described
in the Wrightslaw materials;
- After you filed for a hearing;
- Just before you walk into the hearing office;
- Just before the hearing officer's judgment is given.
Look at the statistics in a recent
memo from Mass Department of Education website at http://www.doe.mass.edu/bsea/forms/08stats.html
which I summarize the below:
In the period covering July 1, 2007
through June 30, 2008, The Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA)
received 7,401 rejected IEPs.
Of those 7,401 rejected IEPs, there were 906 mediations,
of which 761 were resolved.
There were 618 hearing requests. Of the 618 requests,
there were ONLY 34 actual hearings decisions.
Of the 34 decisions:
- Parents prevailed in 7 (approximately 20%) ;
- School districts in 19 (approximately 56%);
- Six (6) decisions (approximately 18%) involved mixed
- Two (2) decisions (approximately 6%) involved relief
against another state agency, or a dispute between two or more school
Of the 7 cases in which parents fully prevailed, parents
were represented by counsel in 4 and appeared Pro Se (acting without
lawyers) in 3; the school district was represented by counsel in all
Of the 19 cases in which school districts fully prevailed,
the district was represented by counsel in all cases; parents appeared
Pro Se in 11, were represented by counsel in 6 and by an advocate
These stats indicate to me a couple of things:
- School districts do come up with something acceptable
to most parents -- 7,401 IEP rejections result in only 618 hearing
requests which result in only 34 full hearings.
- Getting ready for hearing improves your child's chances
of getting services. Keep fighting and the odds are greatly in your
favor that your child will get some improvement in services. Those
7,401 rejected IEPs resulted only in 19 cases where the parents "lost"
their child's case. Those odds are pretty favorable.
- If you do go to hearing, get a good lawyer who specializes
in this sort of things since you'll be up against their lawyer who
specialized in this. Representing yourself isn't such a hot idea.
You can't judge the value of preparing for a hearing on
just the final stats.
People turn to counselling, be it individual, marital,
family or group, at times having done little or no homework on the service
provider. There is more to choosing a counselor then simply picking
up the phone and making an appointment.
tips to be a great parent
It is important that we discipline in a way that
teaches responsibility by motivating our children internally, building
their self-esteem and making them feel loved. If our children are disciplined
in this respect, they will not have a need to turn to gangs, drugs,
or sex to feel powerful or belong.