What to Do If Your Child Is Losing IEP Services

By Andrew M.I. Lee, JD

At a glance

  • The school must give you written notice before it takes away services in your child’s IEP.

  • You may want to use your child’s “stay put” rights to keep services in place until you and other IEP team members resolve the dispute.

  • If your child is losing services, you can ask for another evaluation, get an independent evaluation or even file a due process complaint.

Your child receives the help and services he needs through an IEP. But now the school is planning to remove your child’s services or IEP. What can you do? Here are some steps you can take if your child is losing services.

Make sure you received prior written notice.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that the school tell you before it takes away services in your child’s IEP. The school must also explain its reasons in detail. This is called prior written notice. It’s usually a letter from the school to you.

Before removing services, the school also must have an IEP meeting to talk about the change.

If you didn’t get prior written notice, send a letter to the school asking for it. It’s important to do this for two reasons. First, without written notice, the school can’t remove services. You’re documenting the lack of notice. Second, you can ask the school to explain the reason behind removing services.

Understanding why the school wants to take away services will help you plan how to respond. For instance, if the school’s reason is inappropriate, such as “we’ve never offered that service option before,” you can prepare a strong reply.

You may also find that the school has a good reason. For instance, if your child has been recently reevaluated and is reading at grade level, the IEP team may find he no longer needs, say, biweekly sessions with the reading instructor.

Use your child’s “stay put” rights.

Stay put” refers to your child’s right to keep the current and services in the IEP while you and the school are resolving a dispute. By using your child’s “stay put” rights, you can stop the school from removing a service—at least temporarily.

There are a number of ways to make sure your child stays put. The simplest way is to ask for mediation. Mediation allows a neutral third party to help you and the school reach an agreement.

To request mediation, write a letter to the school. (Here’s a sample letter.) To keep services in place, you’ll need to do this within 15 days of when the school sent written notice to end services.

Ask for additional testing.

Depending on what the school plans to do, you may have the right to additional testing.

If the school wants to completely remove your child’s special education classification, it must first reevaluate your child. The school must look at all your child’s areas of need to see if any qualify under IDEA. And it must do this before taking away your child’s IEP.

If the school only wants to remove some services but not your child’s entire IEP, you don’t necessarily have a right to an immediate reevaluation. But you can still ask for one. It’s especially important to ask for a reevaluation if you disagree with the school.

Every three years, a child with an IEP is entitled to a new evaluation. You also have a right to reevaluation if the school has reason to suspect there are other areas where your child needs services.

Consider an independent educational evaluation.

If a school’s evaluation says your child no longer needs services, you may want to get an independent educational evaluation (IEE). An IEE is performed by an outside professional who doesn’t work for the school. You usually have to pay for the IEE, but you can ask the school to pay. If the school refuses, it has to show that its own evaluation was done properly.

Contact the Parent Training and Information Center.

Under IDEA, each state must have a Parent Training and Information Center (PTI). PTIs provide information that parents need to work with schools that provide special education services.

Your PTI may have legal resources, support groups, and the ability to connect you with other parents and education advocates. The center’s staff may be able to answer specific questions about your state’s special education system.

Talk to an education advocate or lawyer.

You may want to consult with an education advocate. This is a professional who can help you navigate the school system, understand your options, and even negotiate a solution with the school. Another option to consider is talking with a lawyer, who can represent your child’s legal rights.

Advocates and lawyers are generally paid, but some provide free services to low-income families. Read about the differences between education advocates and lawyers. And learn how to find a special education advocate.

Consider other dispute resolution options.

Sometimes it’s necessary to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s (OCR). OCR may investigate and can resolve disputes quickly.

You may also want to consider other dispute resolution options under IDEA, such as due process and state complaints. Due process is the formal process that starts with a written complaint, goes through a kind of courtroom trial, and ends with a decision. A state complaint is a written letter to the state department of education.

These options can be costly, take time and involve a legal process. So it’s important to think about consulting with an advocate or lawyer about your rights before moving ahead.

Get more details on options for resolving IEP disputes. And if you’re nervous about getting tongue-tied when talking to the school, here are ideas on what you can say.

Key takeaways

  • IDEA provides protections for your child when the school wants to remove services.

  • You must act within 15 days of when the school sent written notice to make sure your child’s services remain in place.

  • Consider talking to an education advocate or lawyer for advice on what to do.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Andrew M.I. Lee, JD is an editor and attorney who strives to help people understand complex legal, education, and parenting issues.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Robert Tudisco, JD is a practicing attorney in the areas of education law, disability advocacy, and criminal law.