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What if the school will not give my child the services they need?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute & Justice Center of Southeastern Massachusetts
Created February, 2022

Try to work out a solution with the school at a Team Meeting.

If you cannot work it out at a Team Meeting, you can:

  • try mediation, or
  • ask the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) for help.

Get support from other parents. See your Parent Advisory Council.


Mediation is less formal than a hearing. You and the school agree to mediation.

During mediation, you and the school try to work out an agreement. The BSEA sends a mediator to meet you and the school.

Bring therapists, social workers, and other providers who work with your child and can help you to explain what they need to the mediator. Also bring documents that show your child’s struggles and the support they need.

Learn about mediation at the BSEA, call the BSEA a 781-397-4750.

Ask the Bureau of Special Education Appeals for help

If the school refused to give your child the services or placement they need, ask the BSEA for help.

If you need a BSEA hearing, try to get a lawyer to ask for the hearing and represent you at the hearing. Find Legal Help

Use a “Request for Hearing” form to ask the BSEA for help.

You may want to ask for a hearing if the school will not:

  • Evaluate your child.
  • Give your child an IEP.
  • Give your child the services they need.
  • Give your child the placement they need.
  • Or if you disagree with the results of a Manifestation Determination.

The BSEA hearing officer is like a judge. They can decide the services your child needs and they can order the school to give those services to your child.

Prepare for the hearing

Bring people

The hearing is like a court trial, you bring people who know your child and can talk about your child's needs. The people you bring are “witnesses.” You will need an expert—like an evaluator—who can explain the services your child needs and why

Bring evidence

You will also need school records, medical records, or other documents to show the hearing officer why your child needs the services or placement you are asking for. For example, you could use your child's IEP progress reports to show that your child is not making progress. These documents are called “exhibits.”

If you cannot find a lawyer, the BSEA has a guide for people going to a hearing on their own, the Pro Se Litigant manual.

If you lose at the BSEA you can appeal their decision to state or federal court. Talk to a lawyer about appealing the BSEA decision.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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