IEP Advocacy: Prior Written Notice

Submitted by Tim on Thu, 06/07/2012 - 03:37 PM

The school district is required to consider and explain rejection of your requests for particular services. When you are at the IEP meeting, the school district will not always agree to provide services that you request. That can be very frustrating, but it is very important that you focus on your purpose at the IEP meeting – designing the best IEP for your child - instead of letting school officials distract you from that purpose.

Even so, you have a legal right to a written explanation of the school district’s refusal to include a request in the IEP. Among other things, the writing must describe: (1) the action refused by the district, (2) the reasoning why the action was refused, (3) the data used in making the decision, and (4) the factors used by the district to make the decision.* This writing is called prior written notice  - because same notice is required is when the district makes a change in the IEP.

I have had districts tell me that the IEP document satisfies these requirements, but this is not necessarily true. The IEP is a plan, listing what the school district is required to do. Usually, the IEP does not contain much data, and it does not list why a particular goal was included instead of a different goal.

One district told me that a Georgia Board of Education rule** authorizes use of the IEP as written notice. Section 5(c) of that rule does state that notice requirements in “most cases” can be satisfied by the IEP. But section (b) of the same rule explicitly requires “an explanation of why the [school district] proposes or refuses to take the action” and “any other factors which are relevant to the [school district’s] proposal or refusal.” Section 5(b) also requires a description of the data that the district used to make the decision.

If the school district still refuses to agree to provide additional written notice after you have calmly asserted that it should be given, you need only ask to make sure the discussion is clearly included in the minutes. Getting school officials agree at you will prevent them from putting in their best effort to generate the IEP. Negotiations are the path to success in the IEP meeting – if legal confrontation comes later, the notation in the IEP minutes will show clearly the district’s attitude to its legal obligations.

* These requirements are contained at 20 U.S.C. § 1415(c)(1). (available here)

** State Bd. of Edu. R 160-4-7-.09 (available here).  In the rules, the school district is referred to as the Local Education Agency (or LEA).

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