Last Updated on July 26, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
How do parents consent to only part of a special education plan? Is this even possible? Yes!
IEP Plans Are Key Student Documents
In special education, the magic student document is the Individualized Education Program (IEP) plan. The IEP document is different from the IEP meeting, which is also often called the “IEP.”
The IEP plan is a multi-page document which outlines many important items for a student, including their school placement and support services. As such, the IEP is a critical student document.
Parent Signature Means Agreement to All
Often parents and schools disagree on some IEP items and agree on others, but the IEP is presented by the IEP team as an all or nothing document which just has to be signed how it is.
However, a parent signature on an IEP in the “consent” portion symbolizes full agreement to the entire IEP.
Parents Do Not HAVE to Sign the IEP Irregardless of Shenanigans
So many interesting things happen at IEP meetings to parents.
One of these is the far-too-common situation where the IEP coordinator (person running the IEP meeting) misinforms the parents that they must sign the IEP that day, period, or it goes away.
The parents, despite disagreement with some services in the student’s proposed IEP plan, sign under duress, agreeing to things they don’t want for the student. Why should parents have to do this?
Parents Do Not Have to Sign AT the IEP
First, as a general rule, the IEP document should never be signed at or right after the IEP meeting unless there is absolute certainty that the IEP is perfect through and through. As parents are not involved in writing the actual IEP plan and don’t see it usually until the meeting is over, how can they know and truly agree to the IEP plan contents?
Often the IEP plan may not contain all items discussed and agreed and something important may be missing which will impact the student in the future.
Regardless, once the document is signed, altering it can be difficult. Another IEP meeting may even have to be convened before a school will add items, even items clearly discussed and agreed to at the student’s IEP meeting.
Get a Copy of the Proposed IEP Document For Review
What should parents do instead of signing at the student’s IEP meeting? Ask for a copy or the IEP for review. Parents can then take it home and ensure the IEP is accurate. This is as parents may find errors and omissions, even harmful misstatements in the IEP plan, which need to be addressed before signature.
Sometimes parents find that only the school staff statements made at the IEP are in the notes, but no parental comments are inclulded. Any significant omissions in the IEP should be corrected prior to signing.
It seems a simple matter to take the proposed IEP home, but I have actually met parents whose schools refused them a copy to take home. This is a big no-no and is completely inappropriate. This is a strong arm tactic which breaches parents’ rights. However, it happens. Be on the lookout!
Parents Can Have a Copy of the Proposed IEP Before Signing
Schools may also state that parents cannot have a copy until they sign, to try to get a signature prior to parental review. Don’t fall for it!
A complete copy of the proposed IEP should be provided to the parents with or without their signature. There is no harm in not signing the student’s IEP for a few days, or even never signing it at all if things don’t look good.
If the IEP remains unsigned, the old IEP stays in place.
Steps to Partially Consent to a Student IEP
When parents bring the proposed IEP plan home, a list of what is agreed and disagreed should be made.
Parents can then approach the school with their disagreements, asking them to correct the proposed IEP plan, ask for another IEP meeting, or partially consent to the IEP.
Partial consent is usually done via marking the partial consent box when signing and including a referenced attachment.
If parents provide a specific attachment with what they don’t consent to, the school should not implement those items.
Parents should understand their rights, know how they will proceed, and plan how to handle any anticipated IEP objections. This parent preparation can ensure a better student IEP plan is developed, and that parents don’t consent to disliked items for a student simply to get the items they do like.
Michelle Ball is a special education lawyer for students who can assist with the IEP process, attend IEP meetings with parents and help get a student qualified for special education. Attorney Michelle Ball can advocate throughout California, in Sacramento, Oxnard, Santa Rosa, Malibu, Carmel, Roseville, Victorville, Auburn and other locations.