Is an IEP legally binding?
Yes, an IEP is a legally binding document. School administrators and the parents of a child with a disability will set up an IEP after a meeting at which they discuss the child’s needs and the school’s ability to accommodate them. Once the IEP has been set up, the school is legally required to comply with its terms, providing all of the services, equipment, and programs to which it has committed.
What do I do if a school does not follow an IEP?
You should try to document all of the problems with the school’s implementation of the IEP. Then, you should take that documentation to the principal of the school and any other school personnel who are specifically responsible for children with special needs. You may be able to resolve your concerns informally with the school staff. If this proves impossible, you can consult a disability advocacy group in your area or contact a lawyer. They can help you move forward with the process of filing a formal complaint.
What do I do if my child has a disability, but they are not eligible for an IEP?
Your child may fall within the protections of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which is a federal law with a broader scope. It covers children with disabilities in public schools, charter schools, and most private schools. Section 504 requires schools that receive federal funding to provide access to educational programs and services to children with disabilities. This involves not only physical aids like ramps but also accommodations to help children participate in school programs and activities. If your child is eligible under Section 504, the school will set up a Section 504 plan to address their health needs. If your child’s school is not covered by Section 504, but your child meets the eligibility requirements of Section 504, the Americans with Disabilities Act provides similar protections.
Can a school district refuse to send a child to a private school that will accommodate their disability?
The answer depends on the details of the child’s case. If the school district can provide a free and appropriate education for that child within the public school system, the school district does not need to transfer the child to a private school. A parent will need to articulate reasons why the proposed accommodation in the public school will not provide their child with an appropriate education. In general, federal law urges schools to try to keep children with disabilities in a mainstream classroom used by other children without disabilities. There are plenty of situations in which this is not appropriate, though, and the school district will be required to pay for a child’s education at a private school if this is the only appropriate solution for them.
Does a child with a disability need to take state-mandated general assessments?
Yes. Children with disabilities need to take general assessments. There are virtually no exceptions to this rule, regardless of the specific challenges that a child faces. However, parents should be aware that a child with a disability may be entitled to testing accommodations to account for their disability. A child might be allowed to take the test in a separate location, for example, or they might receive additional time to take the test or rest breaks during the test. Or they might be allowed to provide their answers to the test in a non-traditional format, such as by using a tape recorder.
Can IEP students fail classes?
Yes. An IEP is not meant to prevent a child with special needs from failing a class or give them an unfair advantage over children without special needs. It is simply meant to level the playing field so that they do not face a disadvantage because of their disability.
Does having an IEP or a Section 504 plan affect college acceptance?
No. College applicants are not required to disclose information regarding a disability or special needs on the application. Moreover, colleges cannot ask applicants for this information, nor can high schools send information about IEPs or Section 504 plans to colleges.
Does an IEP carry over to college?
No. Colleges are not required to provide an IEP, but they are required to provide Section 504 accommodations. However, they do not need to provide the same accommodations that the student received under their Section 504 plan in high school.
Does an IEP expire?
No. The IEP lasts until parents and school administrators develop the next IEP or until they agree that the IEP is no longer needed. A school must provide written notice to parents when it seeks to discontinue an IEP.
What happens when a child with an IEP transfers to a new school?
Transferring to a new school within the same school district does not change the IEP. A parent will want to transfer the child’s records to the new school, and they may want to meet with school administrators to discuss the child’s needs, but they do not need to make any adjustments to the IEP unless they are necessary. However, transferring to a school in a different school district may require creating a new IEP.
How long does it take to set up an IEP?
Once a school finds that a child is eligible for an IEP, they must set up the first IEP within 30 days. It will be revisited on an annual basis at the IEP meeting.
Can I change an IEP without an IEP meeting?
If the child’s parents and school administrators agree that the IEP would benefit from a small change, they can change the IEP without conducting a full meeting. An amendment does not substitute for the annual IEP meeting, which is always required. Neither the parents nor the school can unilaterally amend the IEP. They must reach an agreement on the amendment and put it in a written attachment to the existing IEP document. A parent will need to sign the attachment before the amendment goes into effect.
When do I need an education lawyer?
You may need an education lawyer if your child’s situation is complicated, or if you do not have the time to advocate for their needs on your own. If the school district is reluctant to meet your child’s needs, or if they are not following through on the IEP, you may need an attorney to present your position more vigorously. In general, you do not need an attorney if you have a smooth and productive relationship with school administrators, but an attorney can make a difference if the relationship breaks down.