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Student Services Programs

Special Education

over 2 years ago

The Basic Special Education Process

The Basic Special Education Process Under IDEA


The writing of each student’s IEP takes place within the larger picture of the special education process under IDEA. Before taking a detailed look at the IEP, it may be helpful to look briefly at how a student is identified as having a disability and needing special education and related services and, thus, an IEP.


 Step 1. Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services. “Child Find.” The state must identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities in the state who need special education and related services. To do so, public school districts conduct “Child Find” activities. Parents may be asked if the school district can evaluate their child. Parents can also call the public school district and ask that their child be evaluated. Or-- Referral or request for evaluation. A school professional may ask that a child be evaluated to see if he or she has a disability. Parents may also contact the child’s teacher or other school professional to ask that their child be evaluated. This request may be verbal or in writing. Parental consent is needed before the child may be evaluated. Evaluation needs to be completed within 45 school working days after the parent gives consent.


Step 2. Child is evaluated. The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the child’s suspected disability. The evaluation results will be used to decide the child’s eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about an appropriate educational program for the child.


Step 3. Eligibility is decided. A group of qualified professionals and the parents look at the child’s evaluation results. Together, they decide if the child is a “child with a disability,” as defined by IDEA. Parents may ask for a hearing to challenge the eligibility decision if they disagree with it.


Step 4. Child is found eligible for services. If the child is found to be a “child with a disability,” as defined by IDEA, he or she is eligible for special education and related services, and the IEP team will write an IEP for the child. Once the student has been found eligible for services, the IEP must be written. The two steps below summarize what is involved in writing the IEP.


Detailed information on the IEP process is available on the ESE Web site


Step 5. IEP meeting is scheduled. The school system schedules and conducts the IEP meeting. School staff must:

„ contact the participants, including the parents;

„ notify parents early enough to make sure they have an opportunity to attend;

„ schedule the meeting at a time and place agreeable to parents and the school;

„ tell the parents the purpose, time, and location of the meeting;

„ tell the parents who will be attending; and

„ tell the parents that they may invite people to the meeting who have knowledge or special expertise about the child.


Step 6. IEP meeting is held and the IEP is written. The IEP team gathers to talk about the child’s needs and write the student’s IEP. Parents and the student (when appropriate) are part of the team. If the child’s placement is decided by a different group, the parents must be part of that group as well.

Before the school system may provide special education and related services to the child for the first time, the parents must give consent. The child begins to receive services as soon as possible after the meeting. If the parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. i

If there is still disagreement, parents can ask for mediation, or the school may offer mediation. Parents may file a complaint with the state education agency and may request a due process hearing, at which time mediation must be available. Here is a brief summary of what happens after the IEP is written.


Step 7. Services are provided. The school makes sure that the child’s IEP is being carried out as it was written. Parents are given a copy of the IEP. Each of the child’s teachers and service providers has access to the IEP and knows his or her specific responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. This includes the accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided to the child, in keeping with the IEP.


Step 8. Progress is measured and reported to parents. The child’s progress toward the annual goals is measured, as stated in the IEP. His or her parents are regularly informed of their child’s progress and whether that progress is enough for the child to achieve the goals by the end of the year. These progress reports must be given to parents at least as often as parents are informed of their nondisabled children’s progress.


Step 9. IEP is reviewed. The child’s IEP is reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, or more often if the parents or school ask for a review. If necessary, the IEP is revised. Parents, as team members, must be invited to attend these meetings. Parents can make suggestions for changes, can agree or disagree with the IEP goals, and agree or disagree with the placement. If parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. There are several options, including additional testing, an independent evaluation, or asking for mediation (if available) or a due process hearing. They may also file a complaint with the state education agency.


Step 10. Child is reevaluated. At least every three years the child must be reevaluated. This evaluation is often called a “triennial.” Its purpose is to find out if the child continues to be a “child with a disability,” as defined by IDEA, and what the child’s educational needs are. However, the child must be reevaluated more often if conditions warrant or if the child’s parent or teacher asks for a reevaluation.



A Parent’s Guide to Special Education

IEP Process Guide:

Disability Definitions:

Parent’s Notice of Procedural Safeguards


Due Process:

Special Education Grievance Procedures:

Parents have the right to disagree with the school’s decisions concerning your child.  This includes decisions about:

• Your child’s eligibility for special education;

• Your child’s special education evaluation;

• The special education and related services that the school provides to your child; or

• Your child’s educational placement.


Parents have several options.  The first option is to meet with the principal and/or the special education administrator at your school and try to reach an agreement about your child’s needs and services.


The law provides for a Problem Resolution System at the state level. In Massachusetts, the Problem Resolution System is administered by the office of Program Quality Assurance (PQA) at the Department of Education.  Parents can call PQA to ask a question regarding the laws and regulations pertaining to a specific concern.  In order to have a complaint formally reviewed by PQA staff, a complaint must be filed in writing. 


The PQA education specialist will review your complaint to determine if education laws and regulations are being followed.  At the completion of the review, a letter explaining the results of the review and the actions taken to resolve the issue(s) is sent to the parents.


Parents may contact PQA (as described above) or the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) about any matter concerning the identification, evaluation services, or placement of their child.  The BSEA is an independent organization located with the Massachusetts Department of Education.  It is notified by the school system of all signed rejected IEPs.


The BSEA offers several dispute resolution options.  These options include:

  • Mediation:  a voluntary and informal process where you and the school meet with an impartial mediator to talk openly about the areas where you disagree and to try to reach an agreement.
  • Advisory Opinion:  a process where you and the school agree to each present information in a limited amount of time to an impartial Hearing Officer, who will give an opinion as to how the law would apply to the situation as presented.
  • Hearing:  a process where you and the district each present your case to an impartial Hearing Officer for a written binding decision on the best outcome for the student.  A hearing is a fairly complex legal proceeding and averages three to five days in length.


Contact Information:

Program Quality Assurance System

Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education

75 Pleasant Street

Malden, MA 02148



Bureau of Special Education Appeals

One Congress Street, 11th Floor

Boston, MA  02115   617-626-7250       

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Early Chilhood Program

over 2 years ago

Preschool Age 3-5:

Preschool-age children with disabilities are eligible to receive a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.

Parents and caregivers can make a referral for an evaluation for eligibility for preschool services if:

• You think your child has a disability • Your child has received Early Intervention services

• You think your child will need additional services when he or she turns 3 Any child who is found eligible for special preschool services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP) set up by their 3rd birthday.

Make sure the referral for an evaluation for preschool services is made at least 45 working days before your child’s 3rd birthday, or as early as possible. If your child is enrolled in Early Intervention, a referral to your local school (local education agency) should occur when your child is 2 ½ years old.

Contact the school district in your city or town to learn more about Early Learning Services for children age 3-5. Ask to speak with the Administrator of Special Education at your school district.

You may also contact the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care at 617-988-6600. This information is provided by the Division of Perinatal, Early Childhood, and Special Health Needs within the Department of Public Health



Section 504

over 2 years ago


Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities.  Section 504 covers qualified students with disabilities who attend schools and determined to:

(1) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or

(2) have a record of such an impairment; or                                                     

(3) be regarded as having such an impairment.

A major life activity includes:  caring for one's self; performing manual tasks; walking; seeing; hearing; speaking; breathing; learning; working; eating; sleeping; standing; lifting; bending; reading; concentrating; thinking; communicating; major bodily functions; immune system; normal cell growth; digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions

Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities noted above.

If a student is thought to have a disability under Section 504, they have a right to an evaluation and determination made by persons knowledgeable about the student.  A written plan, (504 Plan) must be developed documenting the presence of a disability which substantially limits a major life activity and a statement of the accommodations and/or related services that will be made.  The building principal is directly responsible for 504 coordination in their individual school and will review and update 504 plans on a yearly basis.

The Bellingham Public School District has specific responsibilities under the Section 504, which include the responsibility to identify, evaluate, and if the child is determined to be eligible under Section 504, to afford access to appropriate educational services.  If the parent of guardian disagrees with the determination made by the professional staff of the school district, he/she has a right to a hearing with an impartial hearing office.




The following is a description of student and parent rights granted by federal law.  The law requires that we keep you fully informed concerning decisions about your child and to inform you of your rights if you disagree with any of these decisions.



1.      Have your child take part in and receive benefits from public education programs without discrimination based on disability.

2.      Have the school district advise you as to your rights under federal law.

3.      Receive notice with respect to identification, evaluation, or placement of your child.

4.      Have your child receive a free appropriate public education.  This includes the right to be educated with other students to the maximum extent appropriate.  It also includes the right to have the school district make reasonable accommodations to allow your child an equal opportunity to participate in school and school-related activities.  

5.      Have your child educated in facilities and receive services comparable to those provided to students without disabilities.

6.      Have your child receive special education and related services if he/she is found to be eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) (PL 101-476), or to receive reasonable accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

7.      Have evaluation, education, and placement decisions made based upon a variety of information sources and by individuals who know the student, the evaluation data, and placement options.

8.      Have transportation provided to a school placement setting at no greater cost to you than would be incurred if the student were placed in a program operated by the school district.

9.      Have your child given an equal opportunity to participate in nonacademic and extracurricular activities offered by the school district.

10.  Examine all relevant records relating to decisions regarding your child’s identification, educational program, and placement.

11.  Obtain copies of educational records at a reasonable cost if the fee would effectively deny you access to the records.

12.  Receive a response from the school district to reasonable requests for explanation and interpretations of your child’s records.

13.  Request an amendment of your child’s educational records if there is reasonable cause to believe that they are inaccurate, misleading or otherwise in violation of the privacy rights of your child.  If the school district refuses this request, it shall notify you within a reasonable time and advise you of the right to a hearing.

14.  File a local grievance through your building principal.

15.  Request an impartial due process hearing to decisions regarding your child’s identification, education program or placement.  You and your child may take part in the hearing and have an attorney represent you.  Hearing requests must be made to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education Appeals, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148-5023.

16.  Appeal to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Region I, U.S. Department of Education, John W. McCormack Post Office and Courthouse Square, Room 222, Boston, MA 02700.

17.  Ask for payment for reasonable attorney fees if you are successful on your claim.

The building principal is responsible at each school for Section 504 compliance.  On the district level, Rachel Lawrence serves as Section 504 coordinator and can be contacted at Bellingham School District, 4 Mechanic Street, Bellingham, MA 02019, telephone number 508-883-1706.



The Bellingham Public Schools does not discriminate and will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of disability with regard to admission, access to aids, benefits and services, treatment, or employment in its programs or activities.  Disability discrimination includes harassment based on disability or retaliation against a complainant or individual who has cooperated with the investigation of a complaint.  These grievance procedures apply to conduct directed toward students, employees, or third parties by students, employees, or third parties.  District employees are obligated to intervene and stop any discrimination they witness or otherwise learn of and to immediately report the incident to the principal or Section 504/ADA Coordinator.

Please note that during the investigation and until resolution of the matter, interim measures may be issued, such as restrictions on contact between the complainant and the accused or changes in academic schedule.  Where there is a finding of discrimination, the District will take prompt and effective steps to end the discrimination, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects.

Any alleged discriminatory practices within the scope of Section 504 or the Americans with Disabilities Act should be addressed through the grievance procedures which follows:


Step 1 (Informal Process)

A complainant who believes he/she has a valid basis for grievance under Section 504 or the Americans with Disabilities Act may informally discuss the complaint with the principal.  In the event that the complaint is against the principal or main administration staff, the complainant will proceed to Step 2.  The principal may pursue an informal resolution of the complaint with the agreement of the parties involved.  

Alternatively, in the event that the complaint addresses a district-wide issue or informal resolution is not appropriate, the principal will refer the matter to the District 504/ADA Coordinator to proceed under Step 2.  The principal will have ten (10) school days to complete Step 1 unless the District 504/ADA Coordinator grants a reasonable extension.  The complainant may end the informal process at any point.


Step 2 (Formal Process)

If the complainant is not satisfied with the resolution under Step 1 or chooses not to pursue the informal process, the complainant may file the grievance in writing, using the complaint form available in every main office, with the District 504/ADA Coordinator within ten (10) school days of disposition at Step 1 or 90 school days from the incident.  In the event that the complaint is against the District 504/ADA Coordinator, the Superintendent will replace the District 504/ADA Coordinator for Step 2.  The District 504/ADA Coordinator will assist the complainant with reducing a verbal complaint to writing as needed.

The District 504/ADA Coordinator (or designee, e.g., principal) will conduct an impartial investigation and document the investigation (including dates of meetings/interviews with the parties and other individuals who may have pertinent information, disposition, reasoning behind the disposition and dates of disposition).  The District 504/ADA Coordinator will give both parties the opportunity to present witnesses and other evidence.  If the investigation requires additional time due to the complexity of the issues, availability of witnesses, or any other reason, the District 504/ADA Coordinator (or designee) will communicate regularly with the complainant and conclude the investigation in a reasonable time period.

The District 504/ADA Coordinator (or designee) will give a written reply to the complainant and accused within ten (10) school days of the conclusion of the investigation that explains whether the allegation, based on a preponderance of the evidence, was supported or not supported and, as permitted under privacy laws, actions taken if relevant.  The District 504/ADA Coordinator will present a full report of the investigation and disposition to the Superintendent within twenty (20) school days of the conclusion of the investigation.


Step 3 (Formal Appeal Process)

If the complaint is not satisfactorily resolved through Step 2, the complainant or accused may file a written appeal to the Superintendent.  

To be considered, the written appeal must fully set out the circumstances giving rise to the alleged grievance and should be filed with the Superintendent's Office within ten (10) school days of the date of the written reply to the complainant and the accused at Step 2.  The Superintendent will review the investigatory record and findings and gather any further evidence as deemed necessary within ten (10) school days after receipt of the grievance. Within another ten (10) school days, the Superintendent will issue a written disposition of the alleged grievance.


Step 4 (Alternatives)

At any time, a complainant may choose to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education, Region I, 5 Post Office Square, 8th Floor, Boston, MA  02109-3921, (617) 289-0111.



over 2 years ago



Officers: 2017- 2018 School Year

President: Tina D’Asti

Vice President: Heidi Januszewski

Secretary: Beth Goodspeed




Face Book: Bellingham SEPAC



All meetings are held at:

Bellingham Memorial School

130 Blackstone Street

 Bellingham, MA 02019




October 18, 2018 - Plant Nite at 7:00pm at the Pub and Club

January 8, 2018 - Exceptional Lives Workshop 

April 2, 2018 - Estate and Guardian Planning


Special Services

over 2 years ago

Mission Statement

The Student Services Division supports the overall mission of the Bellingham Public Schools by collaborating, providing personnel, staff development and leadership to meet students' learning needs in a single system of education that maximizes the resources of the entire system.

Vision Statement

The Bellingham Public Schools Student Services Division provides those complimentary resources and strategies that ensure all students are afforded the opportunity to meet District Learner Goals.

We are a community of parents, teachers, administrators, business leaders and general public committted to excellence and accountability.  Our vision for the future is constantly shaped by the diverse and changing needs of our students.

We recognize that teamwork is integral to our efforts and that effective colaboration maximizes our resources so that our students are well prepared for the future.

Guiding Beliefs

•We affirm that respectful behavior toward all individuals is the foundation for our relationships.

•We acknowledge the importance of system-wide shared responsibility in meeting the needs of all children.

•We are committed to providing flexible programs and alternatives to meet the needs of all children in their neighborhood schools.

•We actively promote partnerships between families and school. •We believe that learning is a lifelong process and support those partners who join us in these efforts.

•We believe collaboration among professionls can maximize teaching and learning opportunities.

•We are commited to on-going staff development.

•We believe individual learning styles and abilities should be respected and valued.


Rachel Lawrence,  Assistant Superintendent for Student Services

Bellingham Public School District