Hardship Appeals

What is a Hardship?
A Hardship Appeal is the process by which families of students in grades JK-8 request an expedited (faster) school transfer due to harm caused by their child’s current school placement. On June 18, 2013 the Cambridge School Committee defined new criteria for Hardship appeals. Hardships are further defined below.


  • Will not be granted for parent/guardian convenience. Parent/guardian convenience or family preference can be appropriately addressed by filing a regular transfer request.
  • Will not override the Controlled Choice Policy. If a Hardship is granted, the student’s new school assignment must have available seats and must follow the Policy’s requirement of SES balance.
  • Will not be granted if the appeal is an attempt to gain admission to a specific school.
  • Will be granted when it is shown that the transfer is necessary for the physical or emotional safety of the student and must be for the direct benefit of the student. 
  • Will be granted if siblings, upon entering the district, cannot be admitted to the same school because no placement exists that would accommodate all siblings. If a family chooses separate placements at the time of registration, their situation does not meet the qualifications for a hardship appeal. Exceptions can only be made when there is a compelling reason related to the physical or emotional safety of one student for accepting a placement that causes separation.

Again, the most significant change to the Hardship policy is that Hardships may not be used to gain admission to a specific school.

How do families request a transfer on the basis of hardship (harm) to the child? 
Parents who can show that their child’s school assignment causes a hardship may appeal their school assignment. A Hardship Appeal Form may be downloaded here or requested at the Student Registration Center in person.

After the application is filled out, you are required to submit the form with relevant supporting documentation to the Student Registration Center, where it will be reviewed to see if it meets the criteria for a hardship hearing. 

If your application meets the criteria, the SRC will notify you of the next available appointment for a Hardship hearing, usually within 2-6 weeks depending on the time of year.

What is supporting documentation? 
In addition to the Hardship Appeal Form, parents/guardians are required to provide supporting documentation. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Copies of reports of incidents submitted to school administrators or staff members, including the number of times the report/complaint was filed
  • Absence and/or tardiness reports
  • Written timeline of events showing evidence of harm caused by the child’s current placement, including history and/or evidence of the family’s attempt(s) to work with school officials and report(s) on the outcome of any dispute resolution/mediation meetings.
  • Letter(s) from a doctor or therapist, student health information, or other evidence of harm
  • Medical documentation, letter(s) from a doctor/therapist, and/or parent/guardian health history documentation, if the hardship pertains to a parent/guardian illness or medical issue

Can I be denied a Hardship Appeal Hearing? 
Yes. The Director of the Student Registration Center or designee will review your form and required supporting documentation for completeness and may consult with the parents/guardians or other individuals if further clarification is needed. Your hearing can be denied if the Hardship Appeal form is not complete, if supporting documentation is not submitted, and/or the hardship appeal does not meet the criteria for a hardship as defined above. If your request does not meet the criteria, you will be notified by mail and no hardship hearing will be scheduled.

This letter will explain why the Hearing was not granted, and will recommend other possible routes to meeting the child’s needs. You may wish to revise your hardship appeal request, or may appeal for re-consideration by contacting the Superintendent of Schools, as stated on the Hardship Appeal Form.

What is a Hardship Appeal Hearing?
In a Hardship Appeal Hearing, the Hardship Committee will meet with a family to hear the family’s appeal, or reasons why the child’s current school assignment poses a hardship for the child. The Hardship Committee consists of a small group of neutral staff people who are not familiar with the family or associated with the child’s school. Families are invited to bring additional documentation and support people to this hearing to assist with their presentation of the facts and issues involved.

After the Hearing, the members of the Hardship Committee will make a recommendation to the Office of the Superintendent of Schools, who will make the final decision regarding all hardship appeals.

Who will be serving on the Hardship Appeals Hearing Committee?
The Hardship Committee is group of neutral staff members, who do not work for your child’s school or for the Student Registration Center. They will hear your appeal and ask you clarifying questions.

How will I be notified of the Hardship decision? 
The Hardship Committee will take time to deliberate and then vote on their decision. Families are notified of the Committee’s decision by letter, usually within 1-2 weeks.

What happens if my Hardship is not granted?
If a hardship is not granted, the Committee will send you an explanation letter, usually within 1-2 weeks. Whenever possible, the Committee will recommend other routes to meeting the child’s needs. Families who wish to appeal the decision of the Hardship Committee may appeal to the Superintendent of Schools.

What happens if my Hardship is granted? 
 If a hardship is granted, the Superintendent or his designee will work with the family to find an appropriate school for the student. In most cases, a placement will be sought that will allow an immediate transfer in order to address the student’s needs. However, a new school assignment must still follow the Controlled Choice Policy’s requirement of SES balance. In some cases the student may be placed at the top of one or more waitlists if no seat is available that would meet his or her needs. If more than one family is at the top of a waitlist due to hardship, they will be ordered by date.

For further guidance contact the Student Registration Center:
Email the Appeals Manager, Ilda Zheku
Hours: Monday - Friday | 8:30AM - 3:30PM
Tel: 617.349.6551 | Fax: 617.349.6552

We are available to assist you during business hours all year long, except holidays.

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