If you disagree with the decision

If you don't agree with the school's decision, there are many options for what you can do next.

Remember that the school district is required to uphold your rights. Your rights include options for disagreeing with a decision about your child's services or education.

Here's what you can do:

  • Talk to your child's teacher and your contact at the school department. Explain why you disagree. Be persistent!

  • Consider getting another evaluation. If you disagree with the school's results, you can ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (or IEE). The school system might be able to pay for it. (See the next page for more on IEEs!)

  • Consider getting an IEP Facilitator or Special Education Advocate. (More information below)

  • Call Family TIES of Massachusetts. Ask them for advice: 1-800-905-TIES (8437)

Click the boxes below to learn more:

The Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) has facilitators available at no cost to help with difficult IEP Team meetings.

Either the parents or the school can make the request for a facilitator. Both the parents and the school must agree before the facilitator can be used.

Who is the facilitator? The facilitator is not a member of the IEP team. They are a trained professional, offered for free from BSEA. They are a neutral person who does not represent you or the school. Helps with complex issues or a strained relationship between parents and the school. Oversees drafting a successful IEP for the student.

What does the facilitator do?

  • Gets the school team to make a meeting agenda and stick to it

  • Keeps the team focused on the goal of agreeing on an IEP

  • Helps solve problems that come up

  • Keeps communication clear and open

  • Makes sure the meeting starts and ends on time

How do I ask for a facilitator? You call call the coordinator of mediation at 617-626-7291. Or call the BSEA at 617-626-7250.

Source: Commonwealth of MA

Who are special education advocates?

  • They are experienced professionals who help families work with their schools. They can help you to stand up for what you need.

  • Some advocates are parents who have gone through the special education system. Some are former special education teachers. Usually they are not lawyers, but they are trained to know when to refer you to a lawyer.

  • There is no official certification for advocates, but a good one will have done some training with an organization like Families Helping Families or the Advocacy Center. They are trained to help negotiate and to know when to refer you to a lawyer.

A good advocate:

  • Is well-trained and knows the law

  • Understands disabilities

  • Understands your school system

  • Takes time to know your child

  • Empowers you

  • Acts professionally

If you want to talk to an advocate, ask your school district contact to put you in touch with one. Or ask Families Helping Families.

You can also use databases from COPAA and Wrightslaw to find advocates near you.*

Make sure to ask about cost. Some advocates work for free or on a sliding scale, others charge a fee.

*We do not endorse any of the providers listed on these databases.

Sources: Families Helping Families, Advocacy LA

Last resort: Dispute Resolution Process

If you have tried these ideas and are still having trouble, you can look into this process. It involves getting a facilitator, asking for mediation, and filing complaints against the school district.

See the section in the menu about Solving a problem with the school.


Sources: Federation for Children with Special Needs, MA DESE, Family TIES of MA