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Special Education Laws

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Massachusetts Special Education Laws

Children with disabilities are entitled to special education services under both federal and state laws. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) is a federal law that requires states and public agencies to provide early intervention, special education and related services to children with disabilities. Massachusetts has enacted its own statutes which govern the rights of disabled children in this state. Under these laws, children ages three through twenty-one who have not attained a high school diploma are potentially eligible to receive special education services.

Disabled children are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education

Under the IDEA and Massachusetts special education laws, children with disabilities have the right to a “free appropriate public education,” often referred to as “FAPE.” FAPE requires that a student’s IEP be tailored to address the student’s unique needs in a way that is reasonably calculated to enable the student to make meaningful and effective educational progress.

How do I know if my child is making “effective progress”?

Determining whether a child is making effective progress is the most important factor in analyzing a special education case. Under special education laws, “effective progress” is defined as making documented growth in gaining knowledge and skills, including social and emotional development, within the general education program, with or without accommodations, according to the child’s chronological age and developmental expectations, the individual educational potential of the child and the Massachusetts learning standards.  Quite obviously, this is not the easiest definition to comprehend. We can help you understand the ways that “effective progress” may be measured and can refer you to experts who can evaluate your child’s progress.

A student’s program must meet his individual needs in the least restrictive environment

Under the IDEA, a child’s program and services must be delivered in the least restrictive environment appropriate to meet his or her needs. With this in mind, public schools must offer eligible students a special education program and services specifically designed for each student so as to develop his or her educational potential.  Educational progress is then measured in relation to the student’s academic potential. School districts are responsible to offer programs and services to students that will allow them to make meaningful, effective progress and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.

Knowledgeable and experienced school lawyers

Understanding all of the special education terms and procedures under federal and state law can be overwhelming. If you have questions about your child’s rights to special education services, call us. We understand the steps that are necessary to get your child the free appropriate public education he or she is legally entitled to receive.


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