Timelines

Special Education timelines for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts defines “Day” as a calendar day, that means that “day” includes Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. When modified by “school,” then “school day” means days that students are in school (even partially); it does not include weekends, holidays, or school breaks (winter, summer, etc.). There are at least two places where the regulations state “school working day” and this appears to be the same as “school day.”

Day shall mean calendar day unless the regulation specifies school day, which shall mean any day, including a partial day, that students are in attendance at school for instructional purposes. (603 CMR §28.02(5))

IDEA §300.11 Day; business day; school day.
(a) Day means calendar day unless otherwise indicated as business day or school day.
(b) Business day means Monday through Friday, except for Federal and State holidays (unless holidays are specifically included in the designation of business day, as in Sec. 300.148(d)(1)(ii)).
(c)

(1) School day means any day, including a partial day that children are in attendance at school for instructional purposes.
(2) School day has the same meaning for all children in school, including children with and without disabilities.

On this page I will add the modifier “calendar” to make it clear what is stated; it will be noted as “[calendar]” if I have added it to the given statement. Time frames are italicized and some important modifiers are underlined. All bullet items are quotes from either the MA Education Laws and Regulations or the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), appropriate links are added after each item.


Massachusetts IEP timeline in flowchart form here.

Click on a topic to see the associated timelines.

Eligibility Determination

(Downloadable flowchart)

  • When a student is referred for an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education, the school district shall send written notice to the student’s parent(s) within five school days of receipt of the referral. (603 CMR §28.04(1)(a))
  • If consent is received within 30 to 45 school working days before the end of the school year, the school district shall ensure that a Team meeting is scheduled so as to allow for the provision of a proposed IEP or written notice of the finding that the student is not eligible no later than 14 days after the end of the school year. (603 CMR §28.05(1))
  • (See the section on Evaluations for further timelines)
  • (If the student is found eligible) Within 45 school working days after receipt of the parent’s written consent to an initial evaluation or reevaluation, the district shall provide the parents with two copies of the proposed IEP and proposed placement along with the required notice (603 CMR §28.05(7))
  • If the Team determines that the student is not eligible, the Team chairperson shall record the reason for such finding, list the meeting participants, and provide written notice to the parent of their rights in accordance with federal requirements within ten [calendar] days of the Team meeting. (603 CMR §28.05(2)(a)(2))
Notice of IEP Team Meeting

Each [school] must take steps to ensure that one or both of the parents of a child with a disability are present at each IEP Team meeting or are afforded the opportunity to participate, including–

  1. Notifying parents of the meeting early enough to ensure that they will have an opportunity to attend; and
  2. Scheduling the meeting at a mutually agreed on time and place.

There is no specific timeline for this in the Commonwealth’s regulations, but what is written here is from the IDEA 34 CFR §300.322(a)

Evaluations
  • When a student is referred for an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education, the school district shall send written notice to the student’s parent(s) within five school days of receipt of the referral. (603 CMR §28.04(1)(a))
  • 30 school days from receipt of parental consent, the evaluation must be provided to the school (603 CMR §28.04(2))
  • 45 school days from receipt of parental consent for evaluation and report to be completed (603 CMR §28.05(1))
  • Summaries of assessments shall be completed prior to discussion by the Team and, upon request, shall be made available to the parents at least two [calendar] days in advance of the Team discussion at the meeting occurring pursuant to 603 CMR §28.05(1). (603 CMR §28.04(2)(c))
  • The extended evaluation may extend longer than one week, but shall not exceed eight school weeks. (603 CMR §28.05(2)(b)(4))
  • If the parent is requesting an independent education evaluation in an area not assessed by the school district, the student does not meet income eligibility standards, or the family chooses not to provide financial documentation to the district establishing family income level, the school district shall respond in accordance with the requirements of federal law. Within five school days, the district shall either agree to pay for the independent education evaluation or proceed to the Bureau of Special Education Appeals to show that its evaluation was comprehensive and appropriate. (603 CMR §28.04(5)(d))
  • The right to this publicly funded independent education evaluation under 603 CMR §28.04(5)(c) continues for 16 months from the date of the evaluation with which the parent disagrees. (603 CMR §28.04(5)(c)(6))
  • Whenever possible, the independent education evaluation shall be completed and a written report sent no later than 30 [calendar] days after the date the parent requests the independent education evaluation. (603 CMR §28.04(5)(e))
  • Within ten school days from the time the school district receives the report of the independent education evaluation, the Team shall reconvene and consider the independent education evaluation and whether a new or amended IEP is appropriate. (603 CMR §28.04(5)(f))
Annual reviews / Reevaluations
  • The school district shall review the IEPs and the progress of each eligible student at least annually. Additionally, every three years, or sooner if necessary, the school district shall, with parental consent, conduct a full three-year reevaluation consistent with the requirements of federal law. (603 CMR §28.04(3))
IEP
  • Initial IEPs; provision of services. Each public agency (ie, school district) must ensure that–
    (1) A meeting to develop an IEP for a child is conducted within 30 days of a determination that the child needs special education and related services; and
    (2) As soon as possible following development of the IEP, special education and related services are made available to the child in accordance with the child’s IEP.
    (IDEA 34 CFR §300.323(c))
  • At the beginning of each school year, each public agency (ie, school district) must have in effect, for each child with a disability within its jurisdiction, an IEP, as defined in Sec. 300.320. (IDEA 34 CFR §300.323(a))
  • No later than 30 [calendar] days after receipt of the proposed IEP and proposed placement, the parents shall:
    1. Accept or reject the IEP in whole or in part; request a meeting to discuss the rejected portions of the IEP or the overall adequacy of the IEP; or if mutually agreed upon, accept an amended proposal; and
    2. accept or reject the proposed placement.
      (603 CMR §28.05(7)(a))
  • Upon parental response to the proposed IEP and proposed placement, the school district shall implement all accepted elements of the IEP without delay. (603 CMR §28.05(7)(b)
  • A parent my revoke consent at any time. (603 CMR §28.07(1)(a)(2))
  • No later than five [calendar] days after receipt of a request for hearing or notice that an IEP, or proposed placement, or finding of no eligibility for special education has been rejected by the parent, the school district shall send a copy of such request or notice to the Bureau of Special Education Appeals. (603 CMR §28.08(3)(b))
IEP completion and response timelines

This is an often discussed part of the timeline and has been modified by a Special Education Memorandum from the Commonwealth’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. It is show here, in part, for clarity since bullet items alone would leave some confusion.

Currently, most districts have the technology or resources that make it possible to present at least the key service components of an IEP to the parents as they leave the IEP development Team meeting. This is referred to as a “summary.” At a minimum, this summary of the decisions and agreements reached during the Team meeting must include:

(a) a completed IEP service delivery grid describing the types and amounts of special education and/or related services proposed by the district, and
(b) a statement of the major goal areas associated with these services.

By providing parents with this summary at the conclusion of the Team meeting, in the Department’s opinion the district has complied with the requirement to provide the parent with the key decisions and agreements immediately. The district may then take no more than two calendar weeks (this reflects the former ten school working days standard) to prepare the complete IEP for the parent’s signature and for the student’s records (both home and school).

The role of the parent: The parent is under no obligation to wait to receive the complete IEP to begin considering whether to consent to the proposed IEP services and goals. We urge parents to begin their consideration while developing the IEP in the Team meeting, and to respond to the district’s request for consent as soon as they are ready to do so. The district’s delivery of a summary at the IEP meeting, and any additional time needed to deliver the complete IEP, does not delay the parent’s right and opportunity to respond promptly to the proposed IEP.

The district’s use of a summary report prior to providing the complete IEP must be acceptable to the parent. There may be circumstances when the parent is ready to accept the IEP immediately in order to begin services for the student. In this case, parents may ask the district for the completed IEP in order to begin implementation of IEP services as soon as possible. Districts must respond to such requests with a complete IEP within 3-5 days of the Team meeting at which it was developed.

~Memorandum on the Implementation of 603 CMR §28.05(7): Parent response to proposed IEP and proposed placement

Placement Meeting
  • The placement meeting shall meet the participant requirements of federal special education law as outlined at 34 CFR §300.116(a)(1) and shall be held within ten school days following the meeting at which the Team developed the IEP. At the request of the parent, the placement meeting may be held at a later date. (603 CMR §28.06(2)(e))
  • Any other school district that may be financially or programmatically responsible for the student shall be invited to participate in the placement meeting and shall receive notice of such meeting at least five school days prior to the meeting. (603 CMR §28.06(2)(e)(1))
Revoke Parental Consent
  • A parent may discontinue special education and related services provided to his or her child by notifying the school district in writing that the parent revokes consent to the continued provision of all special education and related services to the child. The school district shall respond promptly by sending notice to the parent of the district’s intention to discontinue all special education and related services to the student 10 school days from the date of the district’s notice based on the parent’s revocation of consent. (603 CMR §28.07(1)(4))
  • A parent may revoke consent at any time. (603 CMR §28.07(1)(a)(2))
Discipline/Change of Placement/Manifestation Determinations

The timelines for discipline, change of placement, and manifestation determinations can be a bit complicated. The best way to follow this is to look at this document, from the Massachusetts Department of Education, which has flowcharts and explanations for Discipline of Special Education Students Under IDEA 2004 and Appeals Process for Disciplinary Placement Decisions for Students with Disabilities.

  • In-school Suspension means removal of a student from regular classroom activities, but not from the school premises, for no more than ten consecutive school days, or no more than ten school days cumulatively for multiple infractions during the school year. Removal solely from participation in extracurricular activities or school-sponsored events, or both, shall not count as removal in calculating school days. In-school suspension for ten days or less, consecutively or cumulatively during a school year, shall not be considered a short-term suspension under these regulations. If a student is placed in in-school suspension for more than ten days, consecutively or cumulatively during a school year, such suspension shall be deemed a long-term suspension for due process, appeal, and reporting purposes. (603 CMR §53.02)
  • Within 10 school days of decision to remove student for disciplinary reasons the district, the parent and relevant members of the IEP Team must review relevant information and make a manifestation determination. (34 CFR §300.530(e))
  • By the 10th cumulative school day of removal in the same school year, the district must consult with at least one of the student’s teachers to determine the extent to which FAPE services are needed to enable the student to continue to participate in the general ed curriculum, although in another setting, and to progress toward meeting IEP goals. (IDEA 34 CFR §300.530(d)(4))
  • If the conduct that the student is being disciplined for involves the “special circumstances” of weapons, illegal drugs, controlled substances, or serious bodily injury, school personnel may remove the student to an interim alternative educational setting (IAES) for up to 45 school days, regardless of the manifestation determination. The IEP Team must determine the IAES. (IDEA 34 CFR §300.530(g))
Home or Hospital
  • Upon receipt of a physician’s written order verifying that any student enrolled in a public school or placed by the public school in a private setting must remain at home or in a hospital on a day or overnight basis, or any combination of both, for medical reasons and for a period of not less than fourteen school days in any school year, the principal shall arrange for provision of educational services in the home or hospital. (603 CMR §28.03(3)(c))
Transition Planning for Post-Secondary School
Age of Majority Transition
  • Federal special education regulations require that at least one year prior to the student reaching age 18 the student and the parent must be informed about the rights that will transfer from the parent to the student upon the student’s 18th birthday. See 34 CFR §300.320(c) and §300.520. MA DESE Administrative Advisory SPED 2011-1: Age of Majority
  • It is not acceptable for the district to wait until a new IEP is developed to seek consent for services from the adult student. Consistent with federal regulations and Department guidance on transition planning, the student should have been invited to attend and participate in IEP development since the age of 14. 34 CFR §300.322 (b)(2)(B). At a minimum, the student should participate in the IEP development meeting that occurs in the year prior to his or her 18th birthday. MA DESE Administrative Advisory SPED 2011-1: Age of Majority
Access to Records
  • The eligible student or the parent, subject to the provisions of 603 CMR §23.07 (5), shall have access to the student record. Access shall be provided as soon as practicable and within ten [calendar] days after the initial request, except in the case of non-custodial parents as provided in 603 CMR §23.07 (5). (603 CMR §23.07 (2))
Due Process Timelines
  • A parent or a school district, except as provided in 603 CMR §28.08(3)(c) and (d), may request mediation and/or a hearing at any time on any matter concerning the eligibility, evaluation, placement, IEP, provision of special education in accordance with state and federal law, or procedural protections of state and federal law for students with disabilities. (603 CMR §28.08(3)(a))
  • No later than five [calendar] days after receipt of a request for hearing or notice that an IEP, or proposed placement, or finding of no eligibility for special education has been rejected by the parent, the school district shall send a copy of such request or notice to the Bureau of Special Education Appeals. (603 CMR §28.08(3)(b))

Mediation

  • Within 30 days of receipt of a request for mediation, the mediator shall schedule a mediation session at a time and place convenient to the parties. (603 CMR §28.08(4)(a))

Program Quality Assurance (PQA), Problem Resolution System (PRS)

  • If you do not complete and return the signed Problem Resolution Intake form within 30 calendar days after the Department sends the form to you, the Department will assume that you do not want the Department to investigate your concern. (PQA Services, Compliance and Monitoring)
  • In most cases, the Department makes a decision – either determining that the school district has not complied with the law (known as a “finding of noncompliance”), or determining that the district has complied with the law (known as a “finding of compliance”) – within 60 calendar days from the date the Department received the signed complaint. (ibid)

Hearings

  • Five (5) [calendar] days after receipt of a written request for hearing, the Bureau of Special Education Appeals shall notify the parties in writing of the name of the assigned hearing officer and, as appropriate, shall provide either a date for the hearing or a statement of federally required procedures to be followed before a hearing date can be assigned. (603 CMR §28.08(5))
  • Within 10 days of receipt of the Parent’s hearing request, the School District must send the Parent and the Hearing Officer a response that specifically addresses the issues raised in the hearing request unless the School District has sent a prior written notice to the Parent regarding the issues raised in the Parent’s hearing request. (IDEA §615(c)(2)(B))
  • A Challenge Sufficiency of Hearing Request must occur within 15 days of receiving the hearing request. (IDEA §615(c)(2)(A) and (C))
  • Within 15 days of receiving Parent’s hearing request, the School District must convene a meeting with Parent, relevant members of Student’s IEP Team with knowledge of the facts identified in the hearing request and a School District representative with decision making authority to attempt to resolve the hearing request, unless the parties waive the meeting in writing. (IDEA §615(f)(1)(B)(i)) Note that if the Parent fails to participate in the required resolution meeting, the hearing date may be delayed.
  • If the School District has not resolved the complaint to the satisfaction of the Parent within 30 days of receipt of the complaint, the due process hearing may occur and all of the applicable timelines for a due process hearing under this part shall commence. (IDEA §615(f)(1)(B)(ii))
  • The decision of the hearing officer of the Bureau of Special Education Appeals shall be implemented immediately and shall not be subject to reconsideration by the Bureau of Special Education Appeals or the Department, but may be appealed to a court of competent jurisdiction. (603 CMR §28.08(6))
504 Plan

Actually, 504 Plan’s do not have timelines specified in the law, either Federal or the state. Many school districts do have guidelines and often they keep to the same timelines as specified for IEPs.