What Should I Do if I Disagree With My Child’s IEP?

When your child receives special education services, making sure that they receive an appropriate education can be difficult. Unfortunately, it can be particularly frustrating when the local school district saddles your child with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that fails to address their unique needs. The good news is that you are not “stuck” with this insufficient program, as there may be several ways for you to change the IEP.

Establishing a line of communication with the school district is crucial to having your child’s IEP modified to reflect the proper program. Specifically, having a good working relationship with the school may make it easier to work with teachers and administrators in order to create a program that best addresses your child’s needs.

If negotiations with the school district break down, you may have other options available to you. It is not required to hire a lawyer to represent you in these circumstances. However, before taking legal action, you should reach out to a qualified education lawyer who can talk you through the process.

What is an IEP?

In addition to describing the support and services a student will receive, an IEP also provides specific information on how the school will implement the student’s program. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that all public school students that are eligible under the IDEA are entitled to an IEP, which will provide free appropriate public education (FAPE). The IDEA also provides students with additional protections in disciplinary proceedings

The process of developing an IEP begins with a request for an evaluation of your child, which can be made by you or by the school, to determine their strengths and weaknesses. This is called a referral. From there, if your child is deemed eligible, you will work with the school to develop a plan that will provide a FAPE in light of your child’s needs.

Typically, the initial IEP goes into effect once you sign the document. IEP renewals may go into effect without your signature if you do not act. However, you may disagree with the proposal from the school district, and this is when conflict with may begin. Although parents have the right to refuse to sign, they must submit written notice to the school district within 15 days of receiving a proposal to change an IEP. Otherwise, the plan will take effect, which can make changing the program or services significantly more challenging. An initial IEP cannot begin without parent consent.

What are My Options if I Disagree With My Child’s IEP?

Even though you participate in the development of your child’s IEP, the school district will ultimately create the draft IEP. Sometimes, school districts will look to cut costs, which could result in your child being deprived of necessary services.  However, not all decisions regarding your child’s IEP are due to cost-cutting measures. There can also be legitimate differences of opinion on how best to educate your child. However, in the end, if you disagree, you still have rights.

If the school proposes an IEP that you disagree with, you should immediately inform your child’s case manager that you do not consent to the implementation of the IEP. Do not sign the IEP, except to indicate your attendance at the IEP meeting. Your notice to the school district should be in writing.

A few common reasons for disagreeing with an IEP include:

  • The school refused to evaluate or reevaluate your child.
  • The school has decided that your child is not eligible for special education services.
  • You disagree with the school’s decision to classify your child, or you disagree with the school’s classification.
  • The school wants to place your child in a program in which they will not receive sufficient services.
  • The school wants to place your child in an program that is too restrictive.

When you disagree with your child’s IEP, you can request to mediation or a due process hearing. Mediation involves the parents, representatives from the school, and a third-party mediator who is unaffiliated with either side. The mediator works with both sides to reach an agreement, which will be put into writing. The finalized agreement is binding and legally enforceable.

Filing for due process means that your dispute may eventually result in a hearing before a judge. Both sides will present their arguments and witnesses will testify. The judge will then make the decision in writing. If you disagree with this decision, you will have 90 days to file an appeal in state or federal court. Most parents who disagree with a hearing officer’s decision appeal to federal court.

What are Other Options to Dispute My Child’s IEP?

Due process and mediation are not the only available options in the event that you disagree with your child’s IEP. Some others include:

  • Negotiations: As a member of your student’s IEP team, you have the right to request a meeting with your child’s teachers and administrators. While this meeting can be a great way to discuss the desired changes to the IEP, it can also encourage all parties to collaborate in furtherance of your student receiving the appropriate education.
  • Lawsuit: Unfortunately, you usually must go through the due process system first before filing a complaint in state or federal court. However, you can file an appeal in court in response to the judge’s decision in the due process hearing.
  • State complaint: You also have the option to file a complaint with the state. You must file your complaint within one year of the violation. You must submit your complaint in writing to the state’s Department of Education and request an investigation.

It is important to know your options when you are trying to provide the best education for your child. It is always best to work with your child’s school district, but when that is not possible, you may have to be willing to take bold steps.

Can the School District Change My Child’s IEP Without My Permission?

Although the school district may have the right to make changes to your child’s IEP without your permission, it must provide you with a written explanation, which is referred to as a prior written notice, within 15 days of the decision and 15 days prior to implementation of the changes. If you disagree with the proposed changes, you should consult with an education lawyer immediately.  Fifteen days after a change is proposed to an IEP, the changes go into effect unless the parent has filed a request for mediation or for a due process hearing.

Additionally, the prior written notice must explain the change and why it is being implemented. The notice must also include any other options that were considered and the documentation referenced in making the proposed change, including evaluations, assessments, records, and reports. Finally, the prior notice must include a description of yours rights and the rights of your child, and it must indicate where you can locate the Parental Rights in Special Education (PRISE) manual.

If the parent makes a timely request for a mediation or due process hearing within 15 days of the proposed change, then no change can be made until the mediation and/or the hearing are entirely over. That means, if you like your child’s placement or services and the school proposes to change or eliminate them, you can protect them in the short term by starting legal process. Our lawyers can help.

Our Princeton IEP Attorneys at John Rue & Associates, LLC Help Parents Who are Fighting to Ensure That Their Children Receive an Appropriate Education

It can be frustrating and stressful when your child’s school district proposes an inappropriate IEP. Our IEP lawyers in Princeton will help you explore your options when you disagree with your child’s IEP. Call us at 862-283-3155 or contact us online to learn more. We provide parents who may need an education lawyer with a free initial consultation, which is 30 minutes by phone, and a more detailed consultation, which is 90 minutes to three hours by Zoom for a flat fee of $595. Our offices are located in Montclair, Ridgewood, Haddonfield, and Princeton, New Jersey, and we serve clients throughout the state.

John Rue & Associates, LLC
40 South Fullerton Ave, Suite 29,
Montclair, NJ 07042


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862-283-3155 (Phone)
973-860-0869 (Fax)