Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP Partner Receives Favorable Decision for Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District
Mary Ellen Sowyrda, a Partner at Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP, represented the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District (“District”) before a Hearing Officer of the Bureau of Special Education (“BSEA”). The District filed a Hearing Request for substitute consent to allow the District to perform a three-year evaluation of a student. If a parent of a student refuses to provide consent for school-based testing voluntarily, districts can proceed to a hearing to obtain and order upholding their right to test the student. In this case, the parents and their counsel introduced various extraneous arguments in hopes of defeating the District’s request. After two days of oral testimony and argument, the Parties were granted an extension for submission of their written closing arguments, to be submitted to the Hearing Officer for review. Once the closing arguments were reviewed, the Parties were informed that the parents and their counsel’s claims were found to be without merit by the Hearing Officer, therefore the District’s request for substitute consent was granted.
Ms. Sowyrda is a partner in the firm and heads the Special Education Department within Murphy, Hesse, Toomey and Lehane, LLP. The firm currently represents more than 125 school districts and educational collaboratives in the practice area of Special Education Law. She is involved in all aspects of litigation and alternative dispute resolution at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals, including representing clients at hearings, settlement conferences, pre-hearing conferences and mediations. She provides clients with daily advice on school-related legal issues including all aspects of special education, Section 504, student discipline, student records and anti-bullying laws, and deals with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and other state agencies that are associated with the provision of special education services to students. Ms. Sowyrda is a Phi Beta Kappa summa cum laude graduate of Boston College and a graduate of Boston College Law School. She is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association and has been annually named a Super Lawyer by Boston Magazine from 2006 to the present.
Attorney Felicia Vasudevan, a partner at Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP, received a favorable decision on behalf of her client, Marshfield Public Schools. The Plaintiff appealed the district court’s judgement that upheld a decision of the Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals (“BSEA”). However, as the notice was filed more than 30 days after entry, the First Circuit ultimately dismissed the appeal for being untimely. The Plaintiff also appealed the district court’s order, denying her motion to vacate. Read More
Following our Alert from March 16, 2023, Civility is Dead – The Supreme Court Rules Municipal Control of Public Speak Limited to Reasonable Time/Place/Manner Restrictions, which discussed the holding to the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Barron v. Kolenda and the Town of Southborough (SJC-13284), we promised to bring you more detailed guidance on developing a Public Speak policy for your public body or municipality. The Barron case involved a constitutional challenge to the Town of Southborough’s public comment policy, which attempted to impose a code of civility on members of the public who participated in public comment before public bodies. In Barron, the court interpreted the state constitution to mean that public bodies may request, but not require, that public commentators be respectful and courteous. Instead, a public body may set restrictions on reasonable time, place, and manner comments to ensure that the meeting retains an orderly and peaceable manner.