Parents, guardians, and educators often have questions about IEPs designed to aid students with disabilities. Here at Purdy Law Office, LLC, we’ve compiled an extensive list of frequently asked questions surrounding IEPs, aiming to provide clarity and direction.

What is an IEP?

An IEP is an Individualized Education Program, which is a written legal document that describes the special education services, supports, and goals for a student with a disability who is eligible for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

What is the Role of Parents in the IEP Process?

Parents are advocates for their child’s best interests and equal partners with the school in the IEP process. Parents contribute valuable information about their child’s strengths, needs, and learning preferences. Parents also have the right to participate in IEP meetings, give or withhold consent for evaluations and services, request changes or revisions to the IEP, and use dispute resolution options if they disagree with the school’s recommendations.

What Happens if a Parent Disagrees with the IEP?

If a parent disagrees with the IEP, they have several options to resolve the dispute. At Purdy Law Office, LLC, our attorneys will discuss your options based on your particular matter.

Can an IEP Be Changed During the School Year?

Yes, an IEP can be changed during the school year if there is a need to adjust the services, supports, or goals for the student. The IEP team can make changes by holding an IEP meeting or by amending the IEP without a meeting. However, the parent must give written consent to any changes and receive a copy of the amended IEP.

Can a Student with an IEP Participate in Extracurricular Activities?

Yes, students with IEPs have the right to participate in extracurricular activities that are sponsored by the school, such as sports, clubs, or music programs. The school must provide reasonable accommodations, modifications, or related services to enable students with disabilities to access these activities. The IEP team must include these supports in the student’s IEP.

How Long Does it Take to Get an IEP?

In Pennsylvania, the following timelines apply for each step of the IEP process:

  • Referral or request for evaluation: The school district must respond within a reasonable time (generally 10 days) and obtain the parent’s consent before conducting the evaluation.
  • Evaluation: The entire evaluation process must be completed within 60 calendar days (not including summer vacation) from the date your permission is received.
  • Eligibility determination: The evaluation team must issue an Evaluation Report within the 60-day timeline and decide if the child meets the eligibility criteria for special education.
  • IEP development: The IEP must be completed within 30 calendar days after the evaluation team issues its Evaluation Report. The IEP must be put into action as soon as possible, but no later than 10 school days after the IEP is completed.

Therefore, it may take up to 90 calendar days (not including summer vacation) from the date of referral or request for evaluation to the date of IEP implementation in Pennsylvania. However, this may vary depending on the individual circumstances of each case.

Can an IEP Be Changed Without a Meeting?

Yes, an IEP can be changed without a meeting if the parent and the school agree to do so. This option is only available for minor changes that do not affect the student’s program recommendation or require the participation of a school psychologist. The parent and the school must develop a written document that outlines the changes and sign a waiver of an IEP meeting. The parent must receive a copy of the amended IEP and a prior written notice of recommendation.

How Can I Make Sure My Child’s IEP is Being Implemented?

There are several ways to monitor your child’s progress and ensure that their IEP is being implemented properly. Some suggestions are:

  • Check-in with your child’s teacher regularly
  • Contact the team leader if you notice any problems
  • Request a special IEP meeting if needed
  • Know your child’s special educators and their schedules
  • Read the progress reports
  • Watch your child’s homework and test scores
  • Keep an eye on your child’s behavior and social skills

If you find that your child’s IEP is not being followed or is not working well for your child, you can advocate for changes or use dispute resolution options.

Is There a Statute of Limitations for Filing a Complaint?

Yes. For discrimination complaints under Section 504 or Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which are civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability, you must file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) within 180 days of the date of the alleged discrimination. However, this time limit may be extended if you can show good cause or if you first filed a complaint with another agency that has a similar law.

In Pennsylvania, the following timelines apply for each type of complaint:

  • Due process complaints under IDEA: You must file a complaint within two years of the date you knew or should have known about the alleged violation unless one of the exceptions applies.
  • State complaints under IDEA: You must file a complaint within one year of the date of the alleged violation.
  • Discrimination complaints under Section 504 or Title II: You must file a complaint with OCR within 180 days of the date of the alleged discrimination unless you can show good cause or if you first filed a complaint with another agency.

Can a Student with an IEP Be Suspended?

Yes, a student with an IEP can be suspended for breaking school rules, but they have extra protections under IDEA. If a student is suspended for more than 10 consecutive school days or for more than 15 cumulative school days in a school year that constitute a pattern of removals, this is considered a change in placement and triggers certain procedures.

The school must conduct a manifestation determination review (MDR) within 10 school days of the decision to change the placement. The MDR is a meeting where the IEP team determines if the student’s behavior was caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to their disability or if it was the direct result of the school’s failure to implement the IEP. If either of these is true, then the behavior is considered a manifestation of the student’s disability, and the student cannot be suspended. Instead, the IEP team must conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and implement or revise a behavioral intervention plan (BIP) to address the behavior.

The student must also return to their original placement unless the parent and the school agree otherwise. If the behavior is not a manifestation of the student’s disability, then the student can be suspended according to the school’s code of conduct. However, the school must still provide educational services to enable the student to continue to participate in the general education curriculum and progress toward their IEP goals.

There are some exceptions to these rules for cases involving drugs, weapons, or serious bodily injury. In these situations, the school can remove the student to an interim alternative educational setting (IAES) for up to 45 school days without regard to whether the behavior was a manifestation of the student’s disability. However, the school must still conduct an MDR and provide educational services as described above.

What Happens to an IEP When a Student Changes Schools?

When a student with an IEP changes schools within the same state, the new school must provide services comparable to those in the previous IEP until it either adopts the previous IEP or develops and implements a new one. The new school must take reasonable steps to promptly obtain records from the previous school, including evaluations and IEPs. The new school must also ensure that there is no interruption or delay in providing special education and related services to the student.

When a student with an IEP moves from one state to another state, the new school must provide services comparable to those in the previous IEP until it conducts an evaluation (if determined necessary) and develops and implements a new IEP. The new school must also take reasonable steps to promptly obtain records from the previous school and ensure that there is no interruption or delay in providing special education and related services to the student.

Contact Us

At Purdy Law Office, LLC, we understand the nuances of the IEP process. For further questions or guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced team.

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