All Header Images © Daniel Voegelin  

#IAMHEREFOR the Option for In-Person Learning for ALL Students with High Needs Rally

Join Us on December 13th for a silent rally!


This will be a “silent” rally with physical and social distancing. We will have a musical playlist that speaks to our need for change, posters showcasing our demands, and personalized  signs for participants. We encourage participants to wear red.

We will release bubbles collectively as a culminating act at the end of our rally. Although this will be a silent rally, for those who wish to participate by car, we encourage horn blowing!!

Masks are required.

Children are welcome.


Haitian Creole



Special Education & COVID-19: MAC Chat Series

Special Education & COVID-19: MAC Chat Series
Next Chat: Thursday Dec. 3 from 8 – 8:45 PM

Please note: There will be no chat on Thanksgiving, November 27

December 3 Chat:
Q&A with MAC attorneys: Come Ask Questions and Discuss Concerns about Special Education During COVID-19 

with MAC Attorneys Julia Landau and Liza Hirsch

As part of our COSA response to the COVID-19 outbreak, MAC is leading biweekly virtual chats for parents to connect with each other and learn tips for advocating for your children during this pandemic.

For our next chat, MAC Attorneys Julia Landau and Liza Hirsch will provide brief updates with the latest information about special education during the pandemic, leaving most of the time for you to raise your questions and concerns about remote learning, in-person services, evaluations, IEP meetings, compensatory services, and other issues. This is a chance to ask questions and learn from each other.

This chat will be helpful for parents of children with all types of disabilities, including autism.

Please bring your questions. We want to hear from you!

Advance registration is required:

Please note: Our chats are limited to 100 attendees and are first come, first served. If you are unable to access the chat, visit our Facebook page for a live stream.
Interested in our Spanish Charlas Semanales? Click here for upcoming and past charlas. Join us every other Wednesday at 8 PM.

10_29_20 @ 7 PM_Basic Special Education Rights



Meeting ID:  810 3803 2832

Passcode:   896366

Dial In: +1 929-205-6099



Cabo Verdean Creole








Haitian Creole



Stay-Put Rights

When used correctly, stay-put provides a powerful and important protection for families who have children with disabilities. In short, stay-put prevents unilateral action by a school district when parents object to a change in their child’s educational program or placement.

The protection ensures consistency in a student’s program during a dispute – which is critical for many students with disabilities.

For example: if a student is placed at a private special education school pursuant to an IEP, and a school district proposes to transition the student back to the local public school, the parent can reject the proposal, and the school district will need to continue to fund the private school placement while the dispute is ongoing.

Below are three things to know about stay-put protections:

1) Authority: In Massachusetts, the right to stay-put can be found at 603 CMR 28.08 (7), “during the pendency of any dispute regarding placement or services, the eligible student shall remain in his or her then current education program and placement unless the parents and the school district agree otherwise.”

Under the IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1415(j), “during the pendency of any proceedings conducted pursuant to this section, unless the State or local educational agency and the parents otherwise agree, the child shall remain in the then-current educational placement of the child…”

2) Application: Parents can assert their stay-put right when a school district proposes to change a student’s placement, program (including extended school year services), or when a district finds that a student is no longer eligible for special education services.

In Leominster Public Schools – BSEA # 12-7450, the hearing officer found that parents properly invoked their right to stay-put when a school district proposed to change a student’s summer program from a 165-hour program to a 108-hour program.

3) Action Items: If a district is proposing something different than the program a student is currently receiving, the student’s parents can reject the proposed IEP in full or in part. Parents should also write a letter accompanying the IEP signature pages, explaining that they want the services or placement to remain the same, and are asserting their right to stay-put.

A district cannot change a student’s educational program or placement unless either: 1) the parents agree to the change; or 2) either the parents or the district files for a hearing at the BSEA, and a hearing officer orders a change. Note that in Massachusetts, parents can invoke their right to stay-put without filing for hearing, which might not be the case in other states.


Navigating the Special Education Process with a Trauma Lens

RTSC’s 9th Annual Making a Difference Conference – Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 8:00am – 4:00pm

Navigating the Special Education Process with a Trauma Lens


Keynote Speaker



Show All


17 November


Min. 4 Day In-Person Option For All Students with High Needs

In Person Services in School, Community or Home



Haitian Creole



Special Education Rights During Covid-19



Meeting ID:

820 8413 8611



 Interpretations will be available in Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, Cape Verdean Creole, Somali &  ASL









Cape Verdean Creole






Haitian Creole












SpEd Reopening Question & Answer Meeting

Please RSVP here.

Thursday, August 13, 2020
Zoom: Meeting ID: 999 2061 9783
Passcode: 013617


English Learner Student with Disability (ELSWD) Parent Wanted to help Improve Services for Students

The English Language Learners Task Force of the Boston School Committee has a subcommittee devoted to English Learners who also have disabilities.  They are anxious to have a SpedPAC parent of an ELSWD student to work with them on the subcommittee.  If anyone is interested they can contact the subcommittee through Roxi Harvey, or directly by emailing John Mudd (formerly at Mass Advocates for Children, or Maria Serpa (Lesley University, )  With Covid-19, the subcommittee meets through Zoom or telephone about once per month.

There are 4,000 English Learners with disabilities in BPS.  They have been one of the most marginalized, neglected groups of students in the district.  They need our attention, support, and advocacy.  Please help.


BPS Reopening Fall 2020, Draft 1

BPS Reopening Plan Draft 1


DLC Seeking Input on Systemic Problems Impacting Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Late-Deafened & DeafBlind Community

The Disability Law Center is looking for your input on the systemic problems impacting people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Late-Deafened, and DeafBlind. We want to hear from people with disabilities, family members, and others knowledgeable about the systemic barriers faced (such as access to effective communication in health care settings, interactions with law enforcement, educational settings, other systemic discrimination issues, etc). We will be using the information you provide us for our annual priority setting process.  Your input will inform the work we do in 2021.

Thank you for your help!

Join the Video Conference Conversation

ASL Interpreters and CART have been confirmed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 | 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm EST
Space is limited and registration is required to participate. Reservations will be granted on a first-come, first-served. Please submit any accommodation requests to Amanda at 617-315-4440 or by no later than August 18, 2020.


Can’t attend but still want to participate?

Take our priority setting survey! All responses to the survey will be kept strictly confidential, will only be used in the aggregate form, and will not be used in connection with your name or email address.

Take the Survey

Two silhouettes with conversation bubbles

Share Your McKinley School Experiences

McKinley School Stories

WHEN: AUGUST 04, 8:00 AM – SEPTEMBER 30, 8:00 AM

Calling ALL McKinley School Students, Parents and Alumni!!
Would you be willing to share your stories about your experiences with the McKinley schools? This information will be confidential. If you’re interested contact Sharon Hinton, M.Ed via email at


BPS Students with Disabilities Denied Access to Dual Language Programs

Boston schools deny some disabled students enrollment into dual-language programs

Tara Garcia Mathewson . Boston Globe (Online) ; Boston [Boston]13 July 2020.

Sign up to receive a newsletter for The Great Divide, an investigative series that explores educational inequality in Boston and statewide. And please reach out to us at thegreatdivide@globe.comwith story ideas and tips.

For almost a decade, Simón López, the special education coordinator at Boston’s Sarah Greenwood School, has been fighting against the school district that employs him. He has lobbied principals, written letters to the revolving door of superintendents in the district, made his case to school board members and even contacted state education agency officials. All to no avail. His cause? López maintains that the Sarah Greenwood School’s coveted dual language program, which teaches students in both English and Spanish, is violating civil rights laws by intentionally excluding many students with emotional disabilities —including some native Spanish speakers who would benefit from a bilingual approach.

Many of the excluded students “have proven that they have the ability to learn a second language if given the opportunity,” López said. The district runs five other dual language programs in addition to the one at Sarah Greenwood in Dorchester —four more in Spanish and a fifth in Haitian Creole. All of them refuse admittance to certain categories of special education students, including those with developmental delays and emotional impairments, according to the district. In three city schools, including Sarah Greenwood, the students with these disabilities attend a shadow school of sorts, spending their days learning mostly, or entirely, separate from the rest of their peers.

The district confirmed that they are denied any access to the bilingual instruction happening in the same building. This, according to experts, is a violation of state and federal laws that prohibit districts from excluding kids from any educational programs just because they have a disability. It also violates laws that require students be taught in the most inclusive environments possible, given their disabilities. “You can’t just stick these kids in the corner,” said Elena Silva, director of PreK-12 for the Education Policy Program at New America, a Washington, D.C., based think tank that has studied both special and bilingual education.

Boston schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius would not say when, or if, all students with disabilities will become eligible for the city’s dual language programs. But she said the district plans to expand its bilingual offerings, including for students with disabilities, and reduce the number of special education students who are isolated from their peers. At Sarah Greenwood, 58 students with disabilities learn in isolated classrooms and are ineligible for the dual language program, according to district data. Even if the district determines they no longer need special education services, the students have to find a new school. After being excluded from the dual language program until that point, most aren’t prepared to transfer in.

López said that over the years he has worked with several families whose children would have been a good fit for the bilingual program but were barred. One family, who declined to be interviewed for this piece, moved to Boston from Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, López said. The family’s first-grader qualified for special education services for an emotional impairment, and the district placed him at the Greenwood School’s specialized program for such disabilities. His parents were overjoyed —initially —because they thought he would also be able to participate in the school’s dual language program, easing his language and cultural transition. “They started crying when I had them in my office and told them, ‘No, he will not be able to participate in the dual language program,”‘ López recalled. In general, any Boston family can list a school with a dual language program as their top choice in the district’s assignment process, but students with disabilities who qualify for more specialized services have more limited options. It’s an oversight in a network of dual language programs that, by all accounts, was designed with the needs of immigrant communities in mind. Across the state and country, some dual language schools have increasingly come under criticism for the opposite: enrolling primarily or even exclusively native English speakers, often from wealthy, highly educated families who consider bilingualism an asset for work and travel. These families advocate for the programs in their children’s schools or move into formerly immigrant neighborhoods and take up the seats in long-running bilingual education programs. At the same time that immigrant children are told to learn English and leave their native language at home, their native-born peers take classes in Spanish, French, Japanese, and other languages that might give them a leg up in their future careers.

Many school districts in Massachusetts designed programs for these more privileged families, according to Phyllis Hardy, executive director of the Multistate Association for Bilingual Education, Northeast, but she said a growing number are joining Boston in using dual language education as a way to better serve immigrant students. Still, students with disabilities are routinely left out.

In Boston, not all students with disabilities are barred from the dual language programs, but they are severely underrepresented. While 20 percent of students districtwide receive special education services, their numbers are far smaller at the bilingual programs: at the Mario Umana Academy and the Rafael Hernández School, the percentage of students with disabilities is in the single digits. In addition to the outright exclusion of students with more severe disabilities, bilingual education experts say the low representation can be explained by a lack of interest in these programs among families of children with disabilities. Hardy said some do not see dual language programs as an option, either because schools haven’t made it clear special education supports will be offered or because the families have been told English-only instruction is better. “We’re still breaking down those barriers,” Hardy said. “Some parents may say, “My child is going through a lot. I just don’t want to add another layer of challenge to my child.” Hardy emphasized, however, that students with disabilities have done just as well in bilingual education programs as in English-only programs. For López, one of the ironies of the exclusionary policy is that some of the kids denied admission are already on their way to becoming bilingual. Their native language is Spanish, and the English they speak and hear at school all day is their second language. (Researchers have found, perhaps counterintuitively, that bilingual education can be a particularly effective way to help newcomers master English.) “They are quite capable of participating in the program and making progress if we give them the opportunity,” López said. Experts and state officials did not know of other districts that explicitly bar students with certain disabilities from enrolling in dual language programs. But Paul Aguiar, director of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Office of Language Acquisition, said his office routinely fields questions from districts about whether they can keep students with disabilities out of such programs. The answer is always no. “Obviously if you get a kid with severe disabilities, it’s a little tougher, but we have an inclusion model in this state,” Aguiar said. That means students with disabilities should be learning and interacting with their general education peers as often as possible— and never excluded from any program outright.

Schools are supposed to find ways to get them the extra supports they need without segregating them into isolated classrooms. Yet Boston maintains 12 categories of special education programs that teach children in “substantially separate” classrooms. In a recent district audit, officials from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education called this isolation of kids with certain types of disabilities “a long-standing issue” that “contributes to a pattern of inequitable access.” During the 2018-19 school year, more than twice as many students in Boston Public Schools spent their days in these segregated special education programs as the state average, according to the audit. This latest criticism from the state prompted the district to commit to increasing the percentage of students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms over the next three years.

One way Cassellius expects to achieve this is with a new special education director: Ethan d’Ablemont Burnes, who took over July 1. As principal of the Joseph P. Manning School in Jamaica Plain, Burnes prioritized inclusion for students with emotional impairments and saw academic gains as a result. He will lead an effort to help other principals dismantle the programs that segregate students with special needs, Cassellius said. “That understanding of how to turn around a school, how to do inclusion, and do inclusion right, is really going to be beneficial to the district,” Cassellius said. She is asking principals to make these changes, however— not ordering them to do so. At Sarah Greenwood, school leaders have resisted López’s advocacy for years. The current principal, Camila Hernandez, declined to comment for this story.

At the school, students in the “substantially separate classrooms” spend 100 percent of the school day segregated from their peers in general education (at many other schools with the separate classrooms, the students spend at least some time in more mainstream settings). Not only are students kept from participating in the core academic classes, which are bilingual, they spend recess and lunch on their own, along with art and physical education, according to López. López said he has seen parents take the extreme step of declining special education services entirely to get their children access to the dual language program at Sarah Greenwood. And he has witnessed thriving students get pulled out of the school’s dual language program when diagnosed with a disability. Perhaps most frustratingly, López said, he has watched successive education leaders in the district and the state allow the civil rights violations to persist. Cassellius’ plans for improving special education services in the district are a promising start, he said. But he’s not going to stop agitating until his students are sharing lunch rooms, classrooms and every opportunity the school has to offer —with the rest of their peers.

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter. Credit: By Tara Garcia Mathewson Hechinger