JOINT STATEMENT

Dover Amendment Update: New Decision by the Supreme Judicial Court

Upholds the Legislature’s Groundbreaking Dover Amendment

September 23, 2019

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

BOSTON – Today’s McLean Hospital Corporation v. Town of Lincoln decision by the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) upholds legal protections for individuals with disabilities who wish to be fully integrated in the community.  The new decision upholds the Dover Amendment, G.L. c. 40A, s. 3, which exempts uses of land that are for education purposes from local zoning laws, and therefore protects against discrimination of people with disabilities. The Court reiterates that the type of student should not be evaluated, the nature of the population being served is irrelevant to determining if the use is “educational” under the Dover Amendment, and that education can look different for different learners. Massachusetts has long been a leader in the fight against discrimination and in education for all. Today’s decision by the SJC is a triumph for both, it upholds the right to education for all learners, no matter the type.

Six diverse organizations supported the plaintiff in this case – Association for Behavioral Healthcare, Inc. (ABH), Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, Inc. (ADDP), Disability Law Center (DLC), Massachusetts Association of 766 Approved Private Schools (maaps), Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers, Inc. (Providers’ Council), and the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee (MHLAC).  The members of ABH, ADDP, maaps and the Providers Council all depend on the Dover Amendment to site their programs and services in communities throughout the Commonwealth, while the DLC and MHLAC seeks to improve the lives of people with disabilities by supporting policies and programs that ensure equal treatment. All of these organizations submitted amicus briefs in favor of upholding the Dover Amendment in this case. While each mission of these organizations is separate and distinct, collectively, in a unified voice, we are grateful to the SJC for upholding the important Dover Amendment, which is critical in the ongoing support of equal treatment for those with disabilities.

The Association for Behavioral Healthcare, Inc. (ABH) is a statewide association representing more than 80 community-based mental health and addiction treatment provider organizations.

The Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, Inc. (ADDP) is a statewide association comprised of approximately 130 community-based providers throughout Massachusetts who provide critically needed services to individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, including Autism, and people with brain injuries.

The Disability Law Center (DLC) is a statewide private non-profit organization that seeks to promote the fundamental rights of all people with disabilities to participate fully and equally in the social and economic life of Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Association of 766 Approved Private Schools (maaps) is a statewide association or approved private special education schools dedicated to providing educational programs and services to students with special needs.

The Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers, Inc. (Providers’ Council) is a statewide association of community-based organizations that provide a broad spectrum of human services and supports to 1 in 10 residents of the Commonwealth.

The Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee (MHLAC) was established by the General Court in 1973 under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. An independent state agency, MHLAC provides advice on a wide range of legal issues including: involuntary civil commitment, access to services, treatment rights, guardianship, and the rights of individuals with disabilities in institutional and community settings.

Joint Statement on Dover Amendment
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