You’ve rejected the IEP… Now what?

As the Parents, you choose to partially or fully reject the proposed IEP.   Now what happens?  You might be surprised.

No matter what your school district may tell you, here’s the real scoop on options after you reject an IEP (in part or in full).

1. Continue to meet as an IEP team. Sit down and do the hard work of sorting through the issues, presenting supportive data and other compelling evidence about why your child needs something you have rejected.

** In cases where emotions are high and meetings have been heated, I highly recommend a new-ish option from the Bureau of Special Education Appeals called a “Facilitated Team Meeting” (FTM).  If you feel there is the potential for the meeting to be too emotional and not collaborative, consider an FTM.  Another example of why you would request this- the district threatens to bring their attorney to a team meeting when you don’t have an attorney.  (That’s a whole other post, but a good place to start is by respectfully asking what expertise they have regarding your child’s unique needs).  An  FTM is also a voluntary option and one I have seen work well.

2. Request mediation.  *You can begin that process before the district submits the rejected IEP to the state and you receive a form letter from your district’s mediator.  Many districts tell parents they have to wait to call their mediator, or only the district can call the mediator.  NOT TRUE.  You can call and speak to the mediator assigned to your district at any time and request mediation at any time.  Please note mediation is voluntary on the part of both parties and really should be done in good faith, with both parties coming to the table to try to resolve the issues.  It’s very much not a “strategy”, rather a solution, which I see work in the vast majority of cases.

3. Either party can file for a due process Hearing (basically, a lawsuit) at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals.  Last resort option and not optional/voluntary if the other party files.

Here’s the surprise I promised:

What most parents who call me do not understand is that, most often, nothing happens.  Literally nothing.  The IEP remains in limbo, with your child retaining “stay-put rights” to the services in the last accepted IEP, and nothing else changes.

To clear up an oft mis-related piece of information, you can not file complaints about the IEP not being followed with Program Quality Assurance AND exercise your due process rights (ie: filing for Hearing with or asking for mediation) at the same time.   Two separate agencies, the BSEA and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, handle these matters. 

In addition, you *can* mediate in lieu of what’s called a mandatory resolution meeting.  This is something which happens if you, the parents, file a request for hearing.  Attorneys are not permitted at Mandatory Resolution meetings if the parent is not represented by counsel.

Big $$ issues (ie: 1:1 aides, placement, program changes) written on IEP response forms or in the letters one may write attached to them are not likely to be even acknowledged by districts who do not share your concerns *unless* you request Mediation or a Hearing. 

Whereas, relatively smaller issues (provision of therapies at a different level, accommodations in PLEP A or B, added consultation, home services) are highly likely to be resolved though the team process.

Another surprise:

You can reject the lack of a service or the inclusion of one.

Surprise #3:

You can reject the IEP at any time.  This is called a retro-active rejection and can be done in writing if you no longer agree to the terms of this legally binding contract.

Important note:  In my experience, the vast majority of parent (and district) requests for mediation are agreed to by the other party.  In considering your options, there are some great resources on the BSEA’s website you should check out.  Finally, the mediators who take the calls from parents and districts alike requesting mediation are very easy to talk to and not intimidating.  The mediators are unbiased “third-party neutrals”.

Especially for placement or big $ issues, make sure you talk to an advocate and/or an attorney who specializes in special education to get their take. Most of us (advocates and sped parent attorneys) offer initial pro-bono (free) limited consultations.   As always, make sure you choose someone with care, who has the passion you expect to be paying for and the solid knowledge of the special education process to advise you on strategy.  Gut feelings matter.

Rejecting an IEP is hard for many parents who have trusted the school for a long, who want to trust the school staff who work with their children.  Any good district with good teachers and service providers has tremendous respect for parents and their input.  Even with that, sometimes good people can disagree.  By continuing the conversation around what your child needs, you are doing a fabulous job advocating for him or her.