Ask The Expert…
With Barbara Raimondo, Esq.
What happens if I do not sign my child's Individualized
Education Program (IEP)?
During an IEP meeting you may find yourself in a position where you don’t agree with
the level of services being offered by the school. Perhaps you believe your child should
receive additional audiology services, or more sign language support. You may feel that
refusing to sign the IEP gives you leverage against the school district.
There are several cases in which a parent must provide consent in order for the school
to proceed. One is consent for initial evaluation. If the school district wants to evaluate
your child to determine whether he is eligible for special education and related service
you must provide consent in order for the school to do so. If you do not provide consent
the school district can file a due process complaint against you.
If, after evaluation, your child is found eligible for special education and related services,
she will not automatically receive special education and related services. The school
needs to obtain parental consent before initially providing special education and related
services. If you do not provide consent, or if you do not respond to a request to provide
consent, the school district is forbidden to file a due process complaint against you. If
you do not provide consent, or if you do not respond to a request to provide consent, the
school district will not be considered liable for violating IDEA’s free appropriate public
education requirements. Further, the school is not required to convene an IEP meeting.
In other words, if you do not provide consent for initial provision of special education and
related services, everything pretty much stops.
Many people believe that by signing an IEP parents are giving the school permission
to provide services. In fact, the law is silent on obtaining parental consent for services
provided in the annual IEP. So, under the law, signing or not signing in and of itself has
no bearing on the services the child will receive if you have already provided consent for
initial provision of services. The child still may continue to receive services unless you
revoke consent, in which case the services will stop.
So what is a parent to do when she disagrees with the IEP offered by the school?
The law requires schools to give “prior written notice” whenever the school or school
proposes to initiate or change, or
refuses to initiate or change
the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the provision of a
free appropriate public education to the child.
So when the school is proposing something or refusing something – such as something
you request - it must give prior written notice.
The prior written notice must include:
• a description of the action proposed or refused by the school;
• an explanation of why the school proposes or refuses to take the action;
• a description of each evaluation procedure, assessment, record, or report the
school used as a basis for the proposed or refused action;
• a statement that the parents have protection under the procedural safeguards of
• sources for parents to contact to obtain assistance in understanding the provisions
of this part;
• a description of other options considered by the IEP Team and the reason why
those options were rejected; and
• a description of the factors that are relevant to the agency’s proposal or refusal.
If the school is refusing to provide the services you are requesting, it is required to
provide this notice. If it doesn’t, you can request that it do so. If the school does not
already have a form you can request that the school use the form provided by the U.S.
Department of Education at www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/modelform-notice.doc
This can serve as a starting point for discussions about why the child should or should
not receive the service in question. It can also serve as part of the record if you decide
to file a due process complaint.
If you feel your child requires more services than the school is offering, don’t focus on
whether or not you sign the IEP. Instead, use the protections provided by the prior
written notice requirements.
Consent Q and A
Q: When is parental consent required before the school can proceed?
A: One, before initial evaluation to see if the child is eligible for special education
and related services, and two, before initial provision of special education and related
services. Once the parent has provided consent for special education and related
services the school may continue to provide services to the child unless the parent