Prepare for the hearing and attend it

We always suggest getting advice from a lawyer before going to hearing.

The special education laws are complicated, and you want to make sure you get what is most appropriate for your child. A lawyer will help protect your rights and those of your child.


Click the boxes below to learn more about the hearing:

It's important to be ready for your hearing.

We always advise getting a lawyer to help you. Your lawyer can help you to prepare a strong case.

The school district will likely have its lawyer, so you should have yours too.

Some things you and your lawyer may do:

  • Request a Motion: Written requests that ask for changes in the hearing, such as changing the date and location of the hearing, or asking that the hearing happen over the phone.

    • If you request a motion, you must submit a copy to the school. The school has 7 days to respond. Then, the hearing officer will respond to your request in writing soon afterwards.

  • Get a Subpoena: Written court order requiring a person to come and testify during the hearing

    • At least 10 days before the hearing, you may ask the BSEA to issue a subpoena for anyone you want to have speak at the hearing to support your case. This request must be in writing.

  • Prepare Exhibits: Documents you want to include in the hearing, such as previous IEPs or evaluation reports

    • At least 5 business days before the hearing, you must get all the exhibits ready for the BSEA and the school district. To prepare the exhibits, you should:

      • Put the exhibits in a 3-ring binder

      • Number each document

      • Include a table of contents that explains each document

      • Follow the instructions from the BSEA on how to submit your exhibits

  • Identify Witnesses: People who are responding to questions under oath at the hearing

    • Make a list of all the witnesses who you are planning to have at the hearing.

    • Make sure to send them the time and location of the hearing so they can be ready.

    • Tell the school and hearing officer if there are conflicts with your witnesses' schedules.

    • Also make sure the witnesses really know your child and have spent significant time with your child so they can accurately talk about your child’s skills, strengths, and abilities.

 

Sources: Commonwealth of MA, Division of Administrative Law Appeals (BSEA), MA DESE

At any due process hearing, you have the right to:

  • Bring a lawyer or advocate to advise and represent you

  • Bring your child (the student) to the hearing

  • Have the hearing open to the public

  • Present evidence such as documents and reports

  • Have witnesses to come to the hearing and answer questions (and also the right to issue a subpoena and require them to come)

  • See any evidence that will be used at the hearing at least 5 business days ahead of time (If you have not seen it ahead of time, you can ask the hearing officer to not allow it)

  • Get a written record of the hearing* This is a word-for-word record of everything people said at the hearing* You can get it electronically or on paper* It is free, but you must ask for it in writing

You can read more by clicking the link at the bottom of the page to download a PDF of the Parent's Notice of Procedural Safeguards.

 

Source: MA DESE

What to expect at the hearing:

  1. The hearing officer will ask if there are any logistical issues.

    • Tell the officer now if there is anything that may affect the flow of the meeting.

    • Examples: scheduling conflicts for your witnesses, if you may need a break for medical reasons, if you have any problems with your supporting documents, etc.

  2. The officer will welcome everyone and read a formal opening statement.

    • The hearing will be tape-recorded.

  3. The officer will take your documents and put them into the record as official 'exhibits.'

  4. You and the school will each give opening statements.

    • If you have a lawyer, they may do this for you.

  5. You will present your witnesses one by one.

    • You or your lawyer will ask them questions.

    • You may also testify yourself.

    • When someone testifies, they will take a formal oath and swear to tell the truth.

  6. Next, the school or their lawyer will ask your witnesses questions.

    • The hearing officer may also ask questions.

  7. This process will repeat for the school's witnesses.

  8. When all the witnesses are finished, the officer will ask if both sides would like to make a closing statement. Then, the hearing will end.

 

What happens next?

  • They may not make a decision right away.You will get the decision in the mail within 60 days after the hearing. The school district will also get it.

  • This decision is final. If you or the school district disagrees with it, you can take it to the state or federal court. Otherwise, both you and the school district must follow the decision.

 

Click the box below to learn how the hearing officer makes the decision.

The decision is based on the federal and state special education laws and regulations.

According to federal law, all children have a right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).

The hearing officer will consider all of the evidence and the testimony of the witnesses.

Using this information, they will decide if your child's special education rights were violated, or if the school district failed to fulfill its obligations to your child.

 

To get help understanding how the laws and regulations apply to your child's situation, you can:

  • meet with a lawyer

  • ask a special education advocate

  • talk to your school district's Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC)

 

Source: MA DESE

Sources: Commonwealth of MA, Division of Administrative Law Appeals (Bureau of Special Education Appeals), MA DESE

 

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