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Do I HAVE to Sign the IEP?

by Wrightslaw

Why has the school never asked me to sign the IEP?

The federal special education law and regulations do not require a child’s parent to sign the IEP.  Parents are required to give informed consent before the school can provide services in the initial IEP, but not subsequent IEPs.

  • Some state regulations include a provision for parents to sign the IEP to indicate their consent. Many states do not, because the federal law and regulations do not require this.
  • Other states require written consent to implement IEPs on a year-to-year basis.

Check your state special education regulations to learn what your state requires. Remember, you will find your state regulations on the website for your state Department of Education.

Benefits of Signing the IEP

Though not required by federal law, having the IEP team members, including the parent, sign the IEP has several benefits:

  • A signed IEP documents who attended the meeting. If the IEP document is not signed, the school district must document member attendance in another way. This is useful for monitoring and compliance purposes.
  • An IEP signed by you is one way to indicate that you approved the IEP. If you do not approve the program, make a note of your exceptions on the IEP or in a note or letter. If you believe the IEP needs to be modified, you should write a letter to request another meeting to revise the IEP.
  • An IEP signed by the agency representative provides you with a signed record of the services the agency agreed to provide. (Note: Even if the school personnel do not sign the IEP, the school still must provide the services in the IEP.)

In my county, the IEP is completed electronically, so the IEP is never signed by anyone.  There is no opportunity for a parent to comment or disagree in any way.

There are many ways for parents to register dissatisfaction or express concerns.

Documenting Your Concerns

Write a polite letter describing your concerns and advising that you do not agree with the IEP and why. To continue negotiations with the IEP team on this issue(s), request another IEP meeting so you and the school have an opportunity to resolve your differences. Send your letter by regular mail, or hand deliver it. Don’t use certified mail.

The IDEA 97 regulations included Appendix A about IEPs and IEP meetings.  Question 9 in Appendix A says, in part:

Parents and schools should try to resolve their disagreements through the IEP process. The IEP meeting is a communication vehicle between parents and school personnel.  IEP meeting(s) allow parents and school staff to make joint informed decisions about the child’s IEP.

Parents are equal participants in making these decisions. The team must consider the parent’s concerns and the information they provide about their child.

The IEP team should work toward consensus. Consensus does not mean that all team members agree.  It is inevitable that members will have different perspectives.  If the team cannot reach consensus, the school must provide the parents with prior written notice about the school’s proposals or refusals, about the child’s educational program.

Have more questions about IEPs? You will find the answers in Wrightslaw: All About IEPs.

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20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Angie 02/13/15 at 11:30 am

    Can a school change an IEP with out letting parents know?

  • 2 Wrightslaw 02/04/15 at 11:32 am

    Sarah, Cannot answer your question without more info about circumstances that led to son attending school #2, who decided he will return to school #1 and why.

    If both schools are public schools within the same school district, the school he attends should maintain and modify the IEP. If a public school placed him into a private school, the public school is still responsible for ensuring that he receives a free, appropriate public education.

  • 3 Wrightslaw 02/04/15 at 11:25 am

    Sally, the school is required to provide you with a copy of your child’s IEP. Write a short letter to request a copy.

    The law requires that parents give their informed written consent before the school can implement the initial or first IEP. See what the law requires for parental consent in “All About IEPs,” pgs 23-24.

    You say the school called you about a modification. You agreed to the modification. Now you think they “narrowed the meaning” of what was in the IEP. Get a copy of the IEP. Make sure you understand the modification before you object. If you aren’t sure you understand, ask questions.

    Federal law and regulations do not require parental consent for later IEPs. Some states do require consent. In other states, signing a later IEP signifies that the parent was present, not that the parent gives consent.

    Look at the IEP to see if your signature is consent or attendance. See “All About IEPs,” page 24.

  • 4 Sarah 02/03/15 at 1:13 pm

    Our son is now attending another school but will return to his initial school. Who maintains the IEP, can the 2nd school modify IEP without consent of the initial school.

  • 5 sally 02/03/15 at 1:11 pm

    Our school called with a modification to a SIGNED IEP that I agreed with as an addition, but I haven’t received a copy even though I requested it. They narrowed the meaning of what was there. Is it legal given it wasn’t signed; should I get a copy of this?

  • 6 Denise 05/13/14 at 10:57 pm

    so what happens when the IEP isnt signed on the day of the meeting by all participants, but when you do finally receive it it has been not only signed, but dated the day of the meeting, not dated the day it was actually signed. How long can the teacher wait to give parent a finalized copy of the the IEP after corrections have been requested.

  • 7 Alyson 04/28/14 at 11:24 am

    I’m in Florida and since I’ve moved to a different part of Florida the school is making 20 year old son like a ten year old and his work is showing it. If I do not agree with his IEP do I sign against or is it better not to sign which helps me better.

  • 8 Kayla 03/12/14 at 8:13 pm

    If a parent attends an IEP meeting via phone conference, do I send the signature page home to sign or do I document that the parent participated via phone?

  • 9 Wrightslaw 10/12/12 at 3:33 pm

    Linda: The Education Department did not publish an appendix of questions and answers with the IDEA 2004 regulations.

    Read this post – Can Attorneys Legally Attend IEP Meetings?

    You will find a 2001 Policy Letter from the U.S. Department of Education to Senator Hillary Senator regarding attorneys at meetings.

  • 10 Linda 10/10/12 at 9:33 pm

    Thank you so much for replying! Sorry to go off the topic of signing the IEP, but I found this when searching Wrightslaw to see if “Appendix A” is still valid.

    We got that “it’s outdated” response from the school attorney when we cited Question 29, which says having a school attorney at an IEP could contribute to an adversarial atmosphere and is strongly discouraged. So is there updated guidance about the school sending its attorney to an IEP meeting?

    More importantly, is Appendix A to the 1997 law STILL a “persuasive authority” since IDEA was updated in 2004? Or does IDEA 2004 have any appendices to which we can refer for similar, updated guidance? Thanks so much!

  • 11 Dave 10/09/12 at 6:52 pm

    Can a student have both a 504 and IEP. I have been told that one a student has an IEP in place the 504 goes away. But I was of the understanding that the 504 carried over into adulthood and did not end at graduation from High School. Thanks Dave

  • 12 Wrightslaw 10/09/12 at 6:10 pm

    Linda, Appendix A is not legal authority, never was, not even in 1997. It is “persuasive authority” or guidance that explains the US Department of Ed position on the law. It is guidance similar to the discussion in the Commentary that explains terms, definitions and requirements in clear language. The previous Appendices (A and C) and the current Commentary help us understand why the Department used specific language in a regulation.

    This post refers to Question #9 in Appendix A.

    I wonder which part of that guidance from US DOE the school attorney thinks is “outdated”?

    Does “the IEP meeting” no longer serve “as a communication vehicle between parents and school personnel, and enables them, as equal participants, to make joint, informed decisions”?

    Are “Parents” no longer “considered equal partners with school personnel in making these decisions, and the IEP team must consider the parents’ concerns and the information that they provide regarding their child in developing, reviewing, and revising IEPs”?

    Does “the public agency” no longer have “ultimate responsibility to ensure that the IEP includes the services that the child needs in order to receive FAPE”?

    Should “Every effort” no longer “be made to resolve differences between parents and school staff through voluntary mediation or some other informal step, without resort to a due process hearing”?

    Can “mediation or other informal procedures” now be used to deny or delay a parent’s right to a due process hearing, or to deny any other rights afforded under Part B”?

    I wonder what information provided by US DOE in Question #9 is no longer applicable? Just asking.

  • 13 Robert 10/09/12 at 5:02 pm

    This must vary by state. In PA, as signature on an IEP ONLY indicated attendance, not approval. Approval (or not) is done with the NOREP (Notice of Recommended Educational Placement.) The standard IEP layout includes the phrase “Signature on this IEP documents attendance, not agreement.”

  • 14 Linda 10/09/12 at 12:56 pm

    This 2010 post refers to Appendix A of IDEA 1997. Is that Appendix A still valid since IDEA was updated in 2004? When we cited a something from this Appendix A, our school district’s attorney said that it is “outdated,” “not even on the books anymore.” So, does the Appendix A from the old law still carry any weight? Thanks!

  • 15 Clemmie 10/09/12 at 11:17 am

    Thank you I always thought I had to sign the IEP for them to be implemented.

    Can I take the minutes home from the ARD before I sign it that I agree, they read the deliberations to fast and sometimes they go back and add things that was not stated in the meeting?

  • 16 Judy 10/09/12 at 9:35 am

    can schools decide to implement bare bone programs and then just make students fit instead of developing programs based on students needs per IEPs? Is this legal to do?

  • 17 steve 03/29/11 at 8:37 pm

    Can the school system change the iep without my permission or signature. If so, can I request the IEP team to meet again. Also if so, is there a minimum time (number of days) in which they legally have to meet?

  • 18 Elizabeth 09/30/10 at 11:58 pm

    I did not sign the IEP. In fact, I wrote a polite but firm note saying that I disagreed with the content of the IEP. Now that the new school year has started, I’m really glad I did. Thanks,

  • 19 Michelle 09/28/10 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks for this information. I always sign my son’s IEP. NYS is a lot of things but they seem to be on top of this sort of thing.


  • 20 Dawn 09/28/10 at 7:07 am

    2006 school created a BIP for my son. 2007-2008 my son had nightmares. 2007 I requested a FBA be done to determine behaviors.The FBA showed that the teacher & staff needed add’l training & classroom needed restructured.Also showed the teacher & staff were the antecedent to son’s behaviors.The end of 2008 several complaints/meetings were held regarding mistreatment by teacher towards son.By April 2008;school changed son’s eligibility from autism to EBD.In this meeting there was a surprise visit by an extra school psychologist.She insisted I transfer my son immediately.I refused to do so.I took son for a private psychologist evaluation.It stated he was not EBD, but PDD-NOS.School changed his main eligibility back to Autism,but won’t remove the EBD.They kept delaying his re-evaluation.Was eligibility changed illegally?What else needed done?