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Chapter 766 Schools Fiftieth Anniversary

Chapter 766 Schools Fiftieth Anniversary

By: Kurt Moellering, Head of School

On September 21st, I was lucky enough to attend a ceremony at the State House celebrating the 50th anniversary of Massachusetts Law Chapter 766. This is the legislation guaranteeing the rights of all young people in Massachusetts with “special needs to an educational program best suited to their needs.” This immensely important law, passed half a century ago, paved the way for the first special education law at the federal level, which eventually came to be known as the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

Learning Prep School exists because of the ramifications of that law. Legally affording the right of every student to the education they deserve in a least restrictive environment made it possible for specialized schools like LPS to enter the educational landscape for students with special needs in Massachusetts. The strong partnership between a private, 766-approved school like Learning Prep and our surrounding local school districts is one that impacts nearly all of our families. 

The speakers at the event included Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Education James Peyser, Senator Jason Lewis, and Chair of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Katherine Craven, among others.  Besides lawmakers, parents also spoke, and it was their words that I found the most inspiring.

Before coming to a Chapter 766-approved school, or even before Chapter 766 existed, parents said that their children had been “invisible” to their schools. These children were unseen, unhelped, and uneducated. They were not a part of any program and denied access to education. The parents who spoke said that schools like ours helped their children to become their fullest selves, to shine individually, and to no longer live invisible lives. 

At LPS, helping our students become their fullest selves and become confident learners impacts all that we do. This mindset drives us to innovate and to follow best practices. That’s why we began using Thinking Maps 20 years ago to help our students visualize their thinking. That’s why we are retraining in Social Thinking this year, and that's why we train every staff member in the best practices of language-based teaching. That’s why we are starting MTSS this year, as a data-informed way to meet the needs of each of our students.

This is also the ethos behind our diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Each of our students deserves to bring their full selves to school every day, which means more than just their learning styles. It means students can bring all aspects of their identity into our buildings. Students can not best learn when any part of themselves is invisible. Massachusetts legislators, parents, and advocates cemented this into law 50 years ago, and it is something we strive to achieve every day.

I hope the school year for your student has begun well. I hope they are feeling challenged, supported, and, above all, seen at school. If I did not get a chance to greet you at Curriculum Night or at the Parent Breakfast, I look forward to opportunities to talk more in the future.