News

Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP Partner Receives Second Favorable BSEA Decision for Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District

 

Mary Ellen Sowyrda, a Partner at Murphy, Hesse Toomey & Lehane, LLP, prevailed on behalf of her client, Hamilton-Wenham Regional School Distrist (“District”), for the second time in two months. In June 2021, Ms. Sowyrda received a favorable decision from the Bureau of Special Education (“BSEA”) in response to the District’s request for substitute consent to perform a three-year evaluation of a student. The second favorable Decision, involving the same student, is a result of a Hearing Request filed by the parents, alleging denial of a free and appropriate public education to the Student. Furthermore, the parents were requesting reimbursement for tuition for two private schools where they had unilaterally placed the Student, despite not having cooperated over a period of years with the District regarding special education procedural requirements, including allowing the student to be evaluated by the District. The Hearing Officer found that the parents’ failure to cooperate substantially interfered with the District’s ongoing and appropriately aggressive efforts to educate the student. As a result, the Hearing Officer’s Decision was in favor of the District and denied the parents’ request for tuition reimbursement.

 

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.

 

Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP has one of the most extensive education law practices in New England. Our firm has concentrated in education law for more than 25 years, and can provide first-rate, comprehensive legal services efficiently and cost-effectively. MHTL represents over 80 school committees, public school districts, colleges and universities and private schools. Our diverse school clientele ranges from large cities and towns to smaller communities and educational collaborative. A significant part of our firm’s education law practice is in the field of special education. In this area, we have counseled over 200 school committees on the adequacy of programs under Chapter 766 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

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EXTENSION OF MUNICIPAL RELIEF MEASURES - INCLUDING OPEN MEETING LAW REMOTE OPTION - SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR

The option for public bodies in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to hold public meetings remotely or in a hybrid fashion, which came into play at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been extended by the General Court for another two years, until March 31, 2025. The Governor signed the legislation, which will be codified at Chapter 2 of the Acts of 2023, on March 29, 2023. Because of the inclusion of an emergency preamble, the law goes into effect immediately.

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