“Stay put” rights: What they are and how they work

At a glance

  • The “stay put” provision is one of the most important legal rights in special education law.

  • “Stay put” rights apply when you dispute a change the school wants to make to your child’s IEP.

  • When you invoke this right, your child’s current placement can remain the same until you and the school resolve the dispute.

If your child is receiving and , you have important legal rights. One of these rights is the “stay put” provision of the (IDEA).

This right comes into play when you disagree with (or “dispute”) a change the school district wants to make in your child’s educational placement. The term placement sounds like it means a location. But it also includes the services described in the , such as or counseling.

If you disagree with a proposed change to your child’s placement, the “stay put” provision allows your child to do just that — stay put. Your child will continue to get the same amount of services while you and the school complete a dispute resolution process.

Most of the time, parents and schools work together to make decisions about a child’s education. But sometimes they disagree. Maybe the school wants to reduce or eliminate services. Or maybe they want to move a child from a general education class to a more restrictive environment.

If you want your child to “stay put” while you dispute a proposed change to the IEP, here’s what you need to know.

To use your “stay put” rights, you must take action quickly.

Parents generally must invoke their “stay put” rights before a change occurs. Federal law requires the school to send you prior written notice of the proposed change. When you receive the notice, you need to take action to show that you’re disputing the change. For example, you might file a due process complaint or request mediation.

Some states have more protective “stay put” laws. In these states, “stay put” may go into effect automatically, without any action on your part. In other states, you can invoke “stay put” rights without filing a formal complaint. Check with your Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) for your state’s specific rules. 

The school must follow the “stay put” rule until your dispute is resolved.

If you ask for a , it might take months before a hearing officer decides your case and any appeals process is completed. During that time, the school can’t change your child’s IEP. It must stay put until the case is resolved.

There is an exception.

The school can move your child for up to 45 school days (even if you disagree with the move) if the current placement is likely to result in injury to your child or others. For example, if your child was dealing drugs or carrying a weapon, the school can make the change temporarily.

During those 45 school days, the school is required to provide services to address the child’s behavioral problems.

There are a number of ways to resolve disputes.

If you’re thinking of exercising your child’s “stay put” rights, it’s a good idea to learn more about due process hearings and other methods of dispute resolution. Understanding your child’s rights can help you prepare for the road ahead.

Key takeaways

  • “Stay put” rights protect your child if the school wants to change your child’s educational placement (which includes the services described in your child’s IEP).

  • Asserting this right ensures that your child continues to get the same amount of services while you and the school resolve a dispute.

  • To use your “stay put” rights, you need to act within 15 days of being told about a proposed change.


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