How to consent to some parts of an IEP and not others

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At a glance

  • When offered an initial IEP, you can consent to some parts of the IEP while disagreeing with others.

  • If you give partial consent, the school must implement only the parts of the IEP you consented to.

  • Once an IEP is in place, you can’t partially consent — you must use dispute resolution options.

After an evaluation, the school presents you with an IEP that you feel isn’t completely right for your child. Can you agree with some parts of the IEP but not others? The answer is yes.

Here’s what you need to know.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), parents have many legal protections. One is that the school needs your informed written consent before it provides services to your child for the first time.

Informed consent means you know what the school wants to do, and you understand and agree in writing. Signing the IEP shows that you consent. (States can add extra parent consent requirements, so it’s a good idea to check with your local parent training center to see if there are extra protections.)

IDEA also allows you to give partial consent to an initial IEP — to agree to some parts but not others. A school administrator may say to you, “If you don’t sign the whole IEP, we can’t give your child any services.” That’s not correct. An IEP is not an all-or-nothing choice. The regulations for IDEA say that a school district:

[M]ay not use a parent’s refusal to consent to one service or activity … to deny the parent or child any other service, benefit, or activity…

Keep in mind that you can only partially consent to your child’s initial IEP. Once an IEP is in place, you can still revoke your consent. But if you do so, the entire IEP ends, and your child is treated as a general education student.

That doesn’t mean the IEP is set in stone, though. You can use dispute resolution to request changes to an IEP you consented to earlier. And you still have “stay put” rights to keep services in place. (Here are steps to take if you think your child’s IEP isn’t working.)

To give partial consent to an IEP, you need to do so in writing to the school.

One way to do this is to write on the IEP signature page that you partially consent and then attach an addendum that explains your disagreement. Here’s what you can write on the signature page:

Date: (Month/Day/Year) Signature: (Your signature) Name: (Your name) I consent to the implementation of this IEP except for the items listed on Addendum A, attached to this IEP. My partial consent does not mean that I agree that this IEP provides my child a . I reserve the right to challenge the appropriateness of the entire IEP as well as any of the items listed in Addendum A.

Another way to disagree is to simply mark up the IEP with notes. But using an addendum gives you more space to write. And it can be clearer and easier for others to read.

It’s important to list every area of disagreement, not just services or accommodations. For example, you might disagree with the school’s evaluation results. Or with statements in the IEP or something that happened during an IEP meeting. If for some reason you can’t attach the addendum, then mail it to the school with a cover letter.

If you give partial consent to an IEP, the school is required to implement the services you agreed to. The parts of the IEP you don’t agree with can’t be implemented — at least not without some dispute resolution.

For example, say the proposed IEP gives your child one hour of reading instruction per week, but also requires an out-of-class behavior program. But you think your child needs two hours a week of reading instruction. You also disagree with the behavior program.

You can consent to the reading instruction in writing. You can also put in writing that you don’t agree to the number of hours of reading instruction or to the behavior program. The result is the school isn’t allowed to implement the behavior program. And the school is still required to provide one hour of reading instruction as you work to resolve the disagreement.

That’s not the end of the story, however. Since you and the school disagree, dispute resolution options under IDEA come into play.

You can start with an informal negotiation: You or the school can call an IEP meeting to iron out the number of hours of reading instruction. From there, you might ask for mediation or a due process hearing, where a hearing officer makes the decision.

A word of caution. Consenting to only part of an IEP may not sit well with some IEP team members or school staff. After all, they’re trying to develop an IEP they think is right for your child. If you disagree with the school, it’s important to try to have an open discussion with staff about why. Make sure they know you want to work with them in a positive way.

Learn more about your rights in the IEP process and see more important passages from IDEA. Check out 10 myths about special education rights. And get tips on how to be an effective advocate for your child.

Key takeaways

  • An IEP is not an all-or-nothing choice.

  • One way to give partial consent to an initial IEP is to add an addendum where you explain what you disagree with.

  • Make sure the IEP team and the school staff know that you want to work with them in a positive way.


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