Massachusetts Advocates for Children 25 Kingston Street, 2nd Floor Boston, MA 02111 617-357-8431 email@example.com
About Us … Massachusetts Advocates for Children is a private non-profit organization dedicated to being an independent and effective voice for children who face significant barriers to equal educational and life opportunities. MAC works to overcome these barriers by changing conditions for many children, while also helping one child at a time. MAC began in 1969 as the Task Force on Children out of School, dramatically exposing the systematic exclusion of children from the Boston Public Schools. During its forty-year history, MAC has been at the forefront of statewide advocacy efforts to protect and expand the rights of children in urban education reform, special education, and other critical areas, such as mental health, nutrition, lead poisoning prevention, and juvenile justice. MAC’s constituency has always been those children who face the greatest barriers to educational success, due to disability, race/ethnicity, language and/or poverty.
2012 Highlights In collaboration with the School Discipline Coalition of the Education Law Task Force, MAC played a leading advocacy role in the passage of c. 222, An Act Relative to Student Access to Educational Services and Exclusion from School. The new law is designed to keep high risk youth in school by reducing unnecessary exclusions and preventing drop outs. For the first time, schools are responsible for educating general education students who they exclude long term, by means of alternative educational services, such as tutoring, alternative placement, and online/ distance learning. Students excluded for more than 10 consecutive days shall have alternative education to enable them to maintain academic progress. Similarly, students suspended 10 or fewer days must have the opportunity to make up assignments in order to maintain academic progress. Additional due process reforms and drop-out prevention provisions are included in the new law.
MAC and pro bono co-counsel at DLA Piper filed a class action lawsuit against the Boston Public Schools (BPS) that focused on the unmet needs of young children with autism and other disabilities turning three years old and transitioning from early intervention to BPS. Many of these young children remained out of school for months at a time due to BPS’ inability to provide adequate and timely evaluations, placements and services. While the problems have not been fully resolved, BPS has made significant progress. Since filing the lawsuit, BPS has created 22 new early childhood classrooms to serve the increasing number of three year-olds with autism and other disabilities. The judge recently ruled that the plaintiffs must first exhaust their claims with an administrative law judge before addressing the requested system-wide relief.
Success Stories Intensive technical assistance helps overcome school district denial of needed services George is a very intelligent 20 year old student with Asperger’s Syndrome and severe anxiety. George received inadequate services from his school district. Unfortunately his Asperger's Syndrome exacerbated his anxiety to the point where he was unable to attend school for over seven months. He was hospitalized twice during this seven month period, because it was feared that he would injure himself. Documentation from the hospital stressed that the school was unable to meet his needs, and it recommended a therapeutic program to get George to the point where he could be ready to learn. The school district insisted their program was sufficient even after two hospitalizations and a suicide attempt. George stated that the district program was, in his words, “traumatizing". MAC’s intensive legal technical assistance included many phone conferences discussing strategy, assisting with paperwork, assisting with letter writing, researching school programs, and being available to assist George’s mother as one crisis and hospitalization after another prevented George from attending school. After two Team meetings and a mediation session, the school district agreed to temporarily place George at the Pathway Program at McLean Hospital. George’s placement at Pathways will be reevaluated after three months to determine if the program at McLean’s can be expanded to include community access and vocational programs for George as part of a transition plan.
It has not been an easy road for Noel and he still has many obstacles to overcome. However, we believe he will eventually reach his goals and surpass our expectations because his rights and needs are protected through the Special Education Law and groups, such as Mass Advocates for Children. - Noel’s parent