The “stay put” right is one of the most powerful protections your child has under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If you want to dispute a school’s decision to reduce the services in your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), you can use this right to keep the services in place until the dispute is resolved. Here’s how to make sure your child stays put.
“Stay Put” Applies to What’s in Your Child’s Most Recent IEP
Under IDEA, the “stay put” right applies to your child’s “current educational placement.” This generally means any placement or services in your child’s most recently implemented IEP. So if a service is written in your child’s IEP, and the school wants to take it away, the “stay put” right can protect that service.
If a service is not written in the current IEP, it’s usually not covered. Keep in mind that the “stay put” right does not apply to 504 plans.
You Have 15 Days From the Date the School Sends Written Notice
When a school wants to change your child’s services or placement, it must give you written notice 15 days before the change. It will usually send you a letter. To have your child stay put, you need to act within those 15 days or else the change in services will go forward. The time period starts when the letter is sent, not when you get it.
In some situations, if you and the school are working together to resolve the dispute, the 15-day time period may be delayed. However, that’s not guaranteed. The best course of action is to know when the school sent the notice and mark your calendar for 15 days.
How to Start a Dispute Resolution Process
To make sure your child stays put, you must start a dispute resolution process under IDEA. You might want to find out what your child’s school’s policy is first. You can ask the case worker, guidance counselor or principal.
Some schools may have rules that are more favorable to parents. For instance, in a few states, if a parent rejects a change to an IEP, the child stays put automatically until the dispute is resolved. The parent does not need to file anything in those states.
A good course of action to make sure your child stays put is to ask for what’s called “mediation.” Mediation is a voluntary process with a neutral third party who helps you and the school reach an agreement. (Here’s a sample mediation request letter you can use.)
You can also ensure your child stays put by filing a due process complaint. This is a formal written complaint against the school. It’s a good idea to talk to an education advocate or lawyer before filing a complaint.
When you’re ready to write the letter, be sure to save a copy of it for your records. This will protect you in case the school loses the letter or it gets lost in the mail. Either way, once you ask for mediation or file a due process complaint, your child will stay put until that process ends.
Knowing how to use the “stay put” right is an important skill as you advocate for your child’s rights. To further build your knowledge of the law, read about other legal rights such as prior written notice and informed consent. You can also learn more about how to use due process and mediation to support your child’s education.