Dispute Resolution Options in Massachusetts

When you disagree with the school in a special education matter, there are a variety of ways you can try to resolve the dispute. The avenue you pursue may affect the outcome, so it's important to discuss the pros and cons of each approach with a special education attorney.

Mediation: Special Education Mediation is a voluntary and confidential dispute resolution process available at no cost through the BSEA. In mediation, an impartial mediator helps parents and school staff clarify the issues and underlying concerns, explore interests, discuss options and collaborate to reach mutually satisfying agreements that address the needs of the student. The mediator does not decide how to resolve the dispute.

Advisory Opinion: The advisory opinion process is an optional dispute resolution process available to parties who have requested a due process hearing. Each party has one hour to give a brief presentation of its case after which the hearing officer issues a written, nonbinding opinion within an hour of the close of the presentations. The parties may agree prior to the commencement of the process, apart from the hearing officer, to make the resulting opinion binding on the parties

Due Process: Due Process hearings are more like a formal trial. Parties often employ attorneys and a hearing officer issues a binding decision. Witnesses can be subpoenaed and exhibits are introduced. Read more about due process hearings here.