According to an article in the Boston Globe this morning, MA is in violation of the revised Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) by denying special education services to students attending all types of private schools – both secular and religious.

Consequently, the federal education department has ordered the state’s 400 school districts to cull through five years of records to accurately count the number of students with disabilities enrolled in private schools, determine the extent of services provided, and figure out how much federal aid, if any, was spent.


Even then, an accurate count may not be possible because private school representatives say districts were disputing disabilities of private school students, questioning the need for services, or refusing to meet with families to discuss program options. Currently about 7 percent of the state’s approximately 74,000 private-school students have documented disabilities, while representatives for Catholic and Jewish schools say they suspect the percentage is likely closer to the state average for public schools. Eighteen percent of the state’s 925,000 public-school students have a disability.

The most recent advisory provided by the Mass Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) on July 27, 2017 — Revised July 2018 to include reference to Grant Fund Code 262 which DESE will administer starting in FY19 – 

guides Massachusetts public school districts in meeting their federal obligations regarding students with disabilities enrolled by their parents in private schools, including secular, non-secular, and independent schools, or home schooled within the district.

Districts have an obligation to locate and evaluate such students and to calculate and spend a proportionate share of federal special education (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA) grant funds on equitable services for these students.

The NPS website site map makes finding any information on Newton Special Education harder than necessary to locate as it is not listed as such along with just about anything else an interested person might want. Scrolling down to and clicking on “Student Services,” an overview of all student services pops up including a short, vague description of Newton’s Special Education Services.

There are links to documents about special education and one to the Newton Parent Advisory Council on Special Ed, the Students Rights and Responsibilities Handbook including one that says Child Find Notice which says in part 

It is the responsibility of the Newton Public Schools to identify any child who is a resident of Newton, or who attends a private school in Newton who may have a disability.This includes students who are residents of Newton who are home- schooled.


It is also the responsibility of the Newton Public Schools to evaluate those students to determine if they are eligible for special education or related services under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) or 603 CMR 28 (Massachusetts Special Education Regulations), or who may be eligible under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

On the left side of the Student Services Page, there is a link (for educators) to DESE Special Education which goes to the MA Special Education Website where there is a wealth of knowledge including a link to a E-learning Resource dated July 27, 2019, Explore DESE’s E- Learning Module for Massachusetts Educators called: IDEA Equitable Services for Children with Disabilities Enrolled by their Parents in Private Schools.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has created this online learning resource for educators and personnel in Massachusetts Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) about IDEA Equitable Services for Children With Disabilities Enrolled by Their Parents in Private Schools (34 CFR §§ 300.130 – 300.144).

The National Council on Disability has a paper from February, 2018 Examining the Federal Role In Education and monitoring compliance. It is long and detailed but several of its conclusions are interesting  

IDEA provides federal funds to assist states and local educational agencies with the additional costs of special education and related services. IDEA is both a grants statute and a civil rights statute. IDEA includes monitoring activities and procedural safeguards as mechanisms for ensuring compliance with the statute’s extensive requirements.

The monitoring activities are overseen by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education. IDEA also requires states to provide an administrative complaint process that must be carried out by each state educational agency (SEA). IDEA is also closely interwoven with Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA),7 the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Results Driven Accountability (RDA), OSEP now includes educational results and outcomes for students with disabilities in making each state’s annual determination under IDEA. Annual determinations are based on data from the prior two years. For example, the 2016 determinations were based on data for fiscal year 2014.

It should be noted that no state has ever been designated as “needing substantial intervention,” despite the fact that the Bureau of Indian Education has received a needs intervention determination for five consecutive years and the District of Columbia has received a needs intervention determination for 10 consecutive years.

In other words, there appears to be no amount of ongoing noncompliance that rises to the level of this determination.

OSEP does not provide a formal process through which to file a complaint regarding alleged violations of IDEA. This lack of a formal complaint process should be further investigated.

Since at least 2002, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights identified a lack adequate resources for state and federal monitoring and enforcement programs. Upcoming budget proposals should assure adequate resources to carry out rigorous monitoring and enforcement activities.





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