The Bureau of Special Education Appeals, or the BSEA, is part of the Division of Administrative Law Appeals and has original jurisdiction over all disputes regarding special education in Massachusetts (including claims based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act). The BSEA provides five avenues for dispute resolution in case of a disagreement between a parent and a school district.
This is the first in a series of five posts that will discuss the dispute resolution options at the BSEA.
Your child’s annual IEP meeting is coming up and you believe your voice will not be heard or it may get contentious due to past conflict, current controversy, or your future wishes for your child. You question your own ability to keep the meeting on track and feel as though a neutral third party’s presence may be beneficial. What options do you have?
One option, which can be requested by either a parent or a school district, is to ask a facilitator from the BSEA to help with a difficult IEP meeting. Both parties must agree to the facilitator’s presence and the service is free of charge.
The BSEA indicates that the trained, impartial facilitator will:
- Develop and follow an agenda;
- Stay focused on the goal of developing an acceptable IEP;
- Problem solve;
- Resolve conflicts that arise during the meeting;
- Maintain open communication; and
- Finish on time.
The demand for facilitated IEP meetings has steadily risen since the option became available in 2006. In 2012, the BSEA facilitated 143 IEP meetings across the state. A facilitated team meeting is one possible way to ensure that the team members who know a child best can participate in developing an appropriate IEP, which benefits districts, parents, and students.
Melanie R. Jarboe is an associate in the Special Education & Disability Rights practice group at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP in Boston, Massachusetts.