“Stay Put” Rule Can Prevent Disputed IEP Changes
By Anita Howell, writing for the CP Family Network
Early in our special education journey, I would have sworn IEP stood for Intensely Exhausting Process rather than Individual Education Plan. As a regulatory auditor and parent of a child with cerebral palsy, I was driven to read and research incessantly before every IEP meeting. Unfortunately, no amount of reading ever seemed to prepare me for the latest surprise. That all changed late one night when I found a little golden nugget in the rules and regulations that enforce the Individuals with Disabilities Education ACT (IDEA).Two little words – “Stay Put” – gave me the confidence boost I needed.
The “Stay Put” rule is intended to maintain consistency when there is a dispute between parents and a school district. If the parents disagree with proposed changes to their child’s education plan, the district must leave the last agreed upon plan in place until the parents exhaust the appeals process.
In our situation, the team often wanted to give up on our son, Ryan. Ryan’s cerebral palsy is very involved and he needs maximum assistance with all activities. We also had a period of time where seizures and medication made him lethargic, causing set-backs. We were routinely pushed, at times even bullied, to drop therapy services. We felt the team’s behavior was shameful in that a child’s future potential can’t possibly be assessed, especially at the age of 3. In the last two years (ages six and seven), Ryan has made great progress, making me even more thankful for the two little words that have protected his education.
The first meeting after my late night discovery was quite interesting; however, I did find that the school district needed to be educated on the “Stay Put” rule. As the team began to discuss their reasons for removing services, I expressed that those items were in dispute and would need to remain unchanged while we appealed their recommendations. Initially, I was lectured on how it is a team decision and that one person couldn’t independently make decisions.
As in our situation, you may need to present proof that “Staying Put” is a legitimate legal requirement in order to be taken seriously. The rule can be found in §300.518 – Child’s status during proceedings of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Paragraph (a) states that while administrative or judicial proceedings are pending, the child must remain in his or her current educational placement. Federal commentary further clarifies this to include related services.
There are a few things to remember when relying on the “Stay Put” rule:
- There is an exception to this rule – children who have been removed from their current IEP placement as a result of disciplinary actions are required to remain in the interim placement during the appeals process. The interim placement is the placement that was determined at the time of discipline.
- While in the meeting, make sure the team is aware of your specific concerns and that you will be disputing any changes.
- Let the team know you will be providing a written statement as to your concerns and that you are requesting mediation regarding the disputed items.
- Make sure your concerns are properly documented in the meeting minutes prior to signing off on the IEP documents.
- Follow-up within 2 days by adapting the sample letter below to document your concerns.
- Review the updated IEP to make sure no disputed changes were made.
- Carefully review anything you sign to make sure you are not waiving your child’s “Stay Put” rights.
May 1, 20XX
To: IEP Team for John Smith
Re: April 30, 20XX IEP Meeting for John Smith
As a follow-up to our April 30, 20XX IEP meeting, I would like to formally state that the following changes are disputed:
1) Removal of occupational therapy.
2) Reduction of speech therapy.
3) Change from direct physical therapy services to consultative physical therapy services.
If the school district plans to require the above changes, we would like to request a mediated meeting. Accordingly, as required by §300.518 Child’s status during proceedings of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations, we are requesting that none of the disputed changes be made until we have completed the appeals process.
Now you have the tools needed to prevent surprise changes to your child’s IEP. Print out these steps, focus on things you want added to your child’s IEP, take time to enjoy your family, and get some rest the night before your next IEP meeting.
More cerebral palsy information and other valuable resources for parents, families, caregivers and others are available from Cerebral Palsy Family Network.
Anita Howell has been married to Wes since 1988. They have an 18- year-old daughter, Emily, currently attending college, and an 8-year-old son, Ryan. She writes, “Though I have never been a medical, research, or legal professional, Ryan’s stroke at birth has thrown me into the deep end of the pool for all of it. It was quite overwhelming in the early years; however, God has made Philippians 4:13 very real throughout my journey.” She shares the successes and encouragement she has found along the way with other parents on her blog posts atwww.specialfaithforspecialneeds.com.