Get legal help and file an appeal

If you or the school disagrees with the decision, either of you can appeal to the state or federal court.

The law allows appeals, but they are very rare in Massachusetts.

Here's what you can do:

  1. Get help from a lawyer who specializes in special education law. They can help you to file the appeal, prepare your case, and represent you in court.

  2. File your appeal within 90 days of the hearing officer's decision.


Click the box below for more on getting legal help:

You may need to find a lawyer to help you resolve your dispute.

It’s best to find one who has lots of experience with special education laws and regulations.

Choose a lawyer who lists one of these as their specialty:

  • Special Education

  • Education Law

  • Advocacy

Be sure to ask in advance about fees.

  • Fees will vary based on each lawyer's experience and how complex the case is.

The organizations below can help you find a lawyer. If you are low-income, ask about free legal help. 


Children's Law Center of Massachusetts

P.O. Box 710

298 Union Street

Lynn, MA 01902

Phone: (781) 581-1977; (888) 543-5298




Disability Law Center, Inc.

11 Beacon Street, Suite 925

Boston, MA 02108

Phone: (617) 723-8455; (800) 872-9992; (617) 227-9464 (TTY); (800) 381-0577 (TTY)



Greater Boston Legal Services

197 Friend St

Boston, MA 02114

Phone: (617) 371-1234



Massachusetts Advocates for Children

25 Kingston Street, Second Floor

Boston, MA 02111

Phone: 617-357-8431 ext. 3224



Special Needs Advocacy Network, Inc.

P.O. Box 509

North Attleboro, MA 02761

Phone: (508) 655-7999, 617-388-3638




The Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) also maintains a list of legal resources by region here: Directory of Legal Services.


Notes about legal fees:

  • You must pay your own legal fees, unless the court decides otherwise

  • If you win your hearing decision, sometimes the court will decide that the school district should pay your lawyer's fees

  • In turn, if the court decides your complaint was not valid, you may be ordered to pay the school district's legal fees

Your lawyer can help you understand how these would apply to your specific case.

Source: MA DESE


If the final decision is that your child does not qualify, then you won't be creating an IEP. Speak with the school about your next steps.

Feel free to keep reading if you wish, or click the logo in the top left of the screen to try another Exceptional Lives Guide.


Source: MA DESE