If your child is receiving special education and related services, you have important legal rights. One of these rights is the “stay put” provision of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (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” means more than simply a location. It includes the services set forth in the IEP, such as occupational therapy or counseling.
If you dispute a proposed change to your child’s placement, the “stay put” provision allows him to do just that—stay put. He’ll 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 disagreements sometimes arise. 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 his IEP, here’s what you need to know.
To use your “stay put” rights, you must take action quickly.
IDEA says parents must invoke “stay put” rights within 15 days of being told of the proposed change. The school is required to send you written notice. The 15-day timeline begins when the notice is sent—not when you receive it.
If you don’t take action within those 15 days—by filing a due process complaint or a request for mediation—the school district has the right to put its changes into effect.
The clock on the 15-day timeline doesn’t begin to run while you and the school are working together to resolve issues (such as holding meetings or getting more information).
The school must follow the “stay put” rule until your dispute is resolved.
If you ask for a due process hearing, it might take months before a hearing officer decides your case and any appeal 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 days (even if you disagree with the move) if keeping him in his current placement is likely to result in injury to himself or others. For example, if your child was dealing drugs or carrying a weapon, the school can make the change temporarily.
During those 45 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.