Do I HAVE to Sign the IEP?

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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.

  1. My daughter had her initial evaluation. During the testing the evaluator said that the WPPSI-IV was incomplete and inaccurate because my daughter refused to answer. Now they are using that “incomplete” test to place her in full time school in an autism classroom. She struggles with social anxiety and has Auditory sensory processing Problems. That doesn’t seem like LRE.

    They said I enroll her full time or get nothing. So I’m going to seek out private therapies, a private tutor, and a play therapy group instead.

    If I refuse To consent to initial services after we attend the IEP meeting can they force her attendance? If the private therapies don’t work out after I refuse initial services how long until I can have her re-evaluated by the district? We are in Missouri.

    • Let the school know you don’t agree with their evaluation and request an IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation) at public expense.

        • You need to make an official request for an IEE. I personally would send it certified. If they continue not to respond, file a complaint with your States Education Agency. They will have no other choice but to respond and rectify the violation of your request.

    • First, the incomplete WPPSI does not absolve the district to assess intellectual ability. Tests are not the only source of data, and no diagnosis can be made with a single instrument anyway…federal law and best practice.
      Second, the district should provide a continuum of service and not just the most restrictive. All or nothing seems like a threat and border on unprofessional to me.
      Third, no one can force your daughter to attend but you have to request a different placement. Do you have one in mind (e.g., your neighborhood school)
      Fourth, federal law stipulates that you can request assessment anytime and the district has to convene an IEP meeting in 60 days.
      Based on what you wrote, I would contact a public advocacy education attorney and see you can get a letter written to force the district to listen to you. Alternately, you can contact your Missouri State Department of Education compliance review department for their help.

  2. Our son’s special education teacher included false information on the IEP, and tried adding unnecessary services without our consent. What is our recourse?

  3. I live in ohio and the iep director and school counselor brought a state patrol to my house forcing me to sign papers with out my husband being home.knowing we was wanting them a out stuff. I even got threatened sign the papers or get arrested! Witch I had my 2 year old so I had to sign.

  4. Hello! My family and I reside in California and recently moved from one district to another. We submitted my son’s IEP from the previous district and the new district began services without informing us. Once we were finally able to get an IEP meeting, they stopped all services since we have not agreed to their proposed IEP.

    Should they still be performing services under the previous IEP or can they stop all services since we do not wholly agree to their proposed IEP?

    Thank you so much for any insight you can provide in advance!

      • Chuck,

        Thank you so much for your response and the information. It has been a struggle with this new school district (non-compliance of their own guidelines, making a IEP decision off a 20 minute assessment, failed IEP meeting, and refusal for in-class paraeducator). Your help will be used as a guide as we navigate these new unknowns to my wife and I.

  5. The school has changed my sons iep
    I was there but I disagreed
    I have asked for another iep meeting but their lawyer is saying hi and it will go into play regardless
    I’m in nj can they do this?
    How do I stop it and get a new iep done

  6. Is there anything anywhere about custody. My 3 year old just got his iep and we live in missouri. His dad who lives in va says he wants his visits to stay the same 2 weeks a month and have him enroll in a school there too. That will hinder his already delayed learning I feel like. Any resources?

  7. My child is on an IEP for social supports related to Autism under IDEA. We are in the middle of a re-eval, but due to a move, I want to revoke my consent to complete the eval, and move her to online services. They are insisting on completing. What are my rights in relation to the following?:

    1) revoking consent and understanding they may complete and close the IEP with the existing info?
    2) refusing IEP services for online programming as they are not pertinent?
    3) seeing eval results as they are completed? (I do not believe she comes close to needing academic supports as she performs at, OR above grade level across the board.

    I am trying to avoid a big issue, or any reason for online to indicate she needs to be in a school setting, and decline her enrollment.

    • Brandy – A lot of folks in your position have the exact opposite concern; their child is performing at or above grade level and in their cases, it is the school balking on services.

      Children with HFA often perform at very high levels on “rules-based” subjects, like math. They may struggle on multi-step problems, but once they figure out a rule for handling these, they are able to handle them easily enough. They even do well with parts of ELA; learning to spell earlier than peers and they read well. But comprehension and inferential elements are difficult, and as they mature these can become roadblocks to learning.

      Why not go with 3) and make a final decision based on the eval? If it reveals an area needing support it’s worth the effort. If not, you have peace of mind. Good luck!

  8. Hello my child is in early intervention and she is doing great but she ia 3 weeks shy on turning 3 years old and the head start she going to now knowns is aging out of those services and the school is threatening me if i dont let her get. Iep she can no long stay in that head start. I feel she don’t need it.. And can i sue them if they take her out of the school

  9. My son is 5 years old and we are in California. We don’t agree with the transitional kinder iEP can we still implement the preschool (tk) iep until we come to a resolution

  10. Wrightslaw, I live in NJ and my son has an IEP since PreK. The only issue he has is a reading comprehension, no behavior issues. We feel that he is not getting enough push/exposure in the limited classroom ( he has only 5 kids in his class and out of them couple have Anxiety and other behavioral issues. ) We feel that he should be mainstreamed. Do we have a right to disagree with the school or can we refuse an IEP? For that do we have to hire an attorney?

    • Yes, you have the right to disagree. You can use what are called the dispute resolution processes. You can also withdraw your consent for special ed services. Students are to be served in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Your concern is that the current classroom is not the LRE. Your state parent training & information project can assist you. You may be able to accomplish what you want without an attorney.

    • You can always disagree with the school about your child’s placement. You can refuse an IEP if you feel he does not need one. However, if he has one your son has protections along with modifications and accommodations which will help him with his reading comprehension. I see know reason why he cannot be mainstreamed. If the school tries to push the limited classroom you can request mediation, you your office for dispute resolution or request due process. You also should contact your state and parenting training center. I wish you and your family the best of luck. Remember you are your child advocate and you should also teach how to advocate for himself to get the services he needs.

      • Please help if anyone knows anything about this: DCF took my child, he is is 4, and I have no domestic past or drugs, or mental health, so I believe they are trying to keep him located where he is, (another county with a foster family I was friends with, as mom is passed, dad is crippled and out of state, and there was no one else toplace him with,)… with an esl or 504 eval. According to the GAL, (guardiam ad litem) he excels in math and language,but in phonological awareness, he is lacking. I would like to know at 4, if a child is required to exceed or meet expectations for phonological awareness? Though I DID have him in private montessori schooling, (now in their public system,) he is not even of required school age. plzhelp

  11. At what point do we, as the parents, sign the consent for services before we have discussed any services? We do not have a finalized IEP, we just finished the determination status (after 5 months of meetings). We did not discuss any services at the last 2 hour meeting, because they would not let us. At the previous meeting we did see a sheet that they had created (without us) with services listed and hours. We are very concerned at this point because we received a “consent for services” in the mail yesterday for us to sign. Is this normal/legal?

    • Joni the team including you should discuss any services that your child needs. The school can not deny you the right to talk about this. What you need to do in request in writing for another meeting to go over the services needed for your child. You can also try contacting you local state parenting training center.

  12. I’m a student in the 11th grade, going to to the 12th and I’m realizing that I don’t belong in special ed. I’m really frustrated because I know that I’m smart and I can work like any regular person does. The teachers pull me out for tests to read to me, I know how to read for myself. I’ve realized that since the 6th grade that I don’t need to be in special ed. I keep telling my mom that I really want her to take me out of it, but she says it’s to late. She told me that I was her first child and she didn’t know what she was doing when she was signing the papers. The only reason they put me in there was because I was extremely shy. All I can do is pray to God. I just needed to vent out. And I know this is for parents

    • Shay, my son is going through the same thing at this time as a freshman. He was put in special ed as a 2nd grader. He functions perfectly as a young man, but they (the school) keep insisting he stay on it. We are working to remove him from special ed as we speak. Just keep talking to your mom, and possibly ask for a meeting with your team. Maybe your mom needs help to get the ball rolling.

    • Shay, it is never too late to advocate for yourself. I strongly encourage you to express your concerns with your case manager and a school psychologist, if you haven’t already. I recommend expressing your concerns with your gen ed teachers, school counselor and principal as well. IEPs are goal driven. Your IEP goals should reflect areas of difficulty for you that impact your ability to demonstrate appropriate age/grade level skills. Your services should be supports put in place to help you meet your goals. I find it extremely concerning that you would be forced to take tests in a manner that doesn’t feel necessary or comfortable to you. Please continue to discuss your concerns with your parents and the adults responsible for your education at school.

    • Dear Shay,
      You are not alone. My oldest had to repeat Kindergarten due to her teacher. I had her in a private Catholic School. I took my daughter to our pediatrician,who agreed on my behalf, Nothing was wrong with her. Yes she was shy.
      The school principal,said I had no choice.
      So she ended up repeating. But she did Excell& graduated,did some trade schools & college &
      is employed by a law firm & is young,bright, beautiful,and independent (with her own place &car).
      She is my oldest,now I am having the same trouble with her little sister (Kindergarten-again)
      Nowadays it seems they label children too much! It’s a shame.
      Always know, YOU Are Unique &there is no limit to your ability, you just need to TRY HARD!!!God Bless ❤️

  13. Any case law on providing appropriate accommodations to a parent with a documented disability that is not visible? What to do when the parent is highly educated, but simply has trouble keeping up or has poor executive function skills? Do you reccomend that the parent have their own advocate or attorney? Any organizations for parents with deficits navigating special education? Many parents receive late diagnoses at the same time as their children.
    Is a parent forced to file due process when the school refuses to send prior written notice upon request? I’ve been told my state doesnt have a prior written notice form by State Dept. Of Ed.

  14. Hello 🙂

    I live in California and we have not signed our IEP since March. We do not the majority of the goals or baselines. We have intensive Reading Instruction in a resource room for 90 min a week. That had offered an additional 30 min in May, but it is only in the meetings notes. It is not under services. They repeatedly send us the March IEP to sign and say only then they can implement the additional half hour. We have signed it 3 times with exceptions, yet they still will not accept and refuse ( actually they don’t reply) to just send an amendment for the additional time( which I assuming would be needed anyway, because those minutes are not actually in services section) . Is any of this above board. It all seems a bit off and extremely frustrating.

    Thank you

  15. I’m in NJ and just left an IEP meeting and I did sign and want to know if I have time to cancel that agreement. There is something in the IEP that we talked about changing for next year, they know I and my daughter don’t want to keep it like that. However they made no note of it in the IEP. Should I send a letter stating the parts I want changed? Thank you for your help!

    • NJ automatically implements the IEP after a 15 day review. You cannot partially consent to an IEP in NJ. If you do not agree you ask to reconvene the IEP team, file mediation or file due process. If you file mediation/due process you invoke stay out and the last IEP remains in effect.

      • I like this way altogether. California. The home of the fruits and nuts is so corrupt. I am on the eighth IEP and twenty five drafts. My son has a learning disability and speech impairment. No behavioral issues or problems. The district here in Bakersfield was just convicted of expelling special needs minorities the most in the country. We moved here almost five years ago from the coast. I never seen anything like this in my life. I filed due process as my only option now. I had two attorneys who could not penetrate these people. All they do is deny and delay a childs education. Make up phony allegations , please write everything down, and tape it all. Use emails, and letters. Stay off the phones. I dont understand why they put my son in the most severe disabled classes.

  16. My school district automatically files due process on me when I sign “with the exception of”. If I don’t sign at all they leave me alone. We’re using the IEP from 2015 because I haven’t signed any current ones because I don’t agree with them.

  17. I currently live in Maryland. my son is having a problem in ONLY comprehension. his teacher recently recommended him for a IEP. Me and my husband were thinking about transferring him to a different school. What parental rights do we have if we don’t sign the IEP?

  18. In Tennessee, if a parent choses not to sign the IEP at the conclusion of an IEP meeting, nothing will be implemented for 14 days to allow for time to review and request changes if desired or to request a due process hearing if needed. If parent does not sign, on the 15th day following the meeting, the services will be implemented (assuming it is not an initial). Is this time allowance/constraint true in all states?

  19. In TX, signing the IEP say I attended or that I agree? Can I retract? What if we cant reach agreement? My child was in Intensive ASD class 3:1 /Autism teacher/ 2 ASD paras, ASD curriculum, services, but moved here to Tx, they had IEP same day of enrollment, they removed services, put her in a multiple disabilities, 14 kids, handed safeguards during meeting & told I had no choice b/c that’s all they had to offer (opposite of what they told us prior)…they have no Autism staff, & threatened w truancy is not sent. My child continues to regress,I was told I had to give them a chance but I have had 2-3 meetings in 8 mo now, we have another IEP meeting on Tuesday… PLEASE HELP??

    • I would say that you have given them 8 months of “chances.” Doing more of the same and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

    • In Texas, contact if you have questions or concerns about Texas rules and regulations regarding special education issues. It is a state funded project designed to provide resources and information about questions such as yours.

  20. My son started kindergarten last year and was having some emotional issues. The school was small and had zero funding for services so I allowed them to give him an iep and put him on homebound. We moved to a much larger school for 1st gra decent and my son feels ready to attend but the new school is refusing to allow him in. They say his old iep is still in effect and their hands are tied. My son has aspergers, if this continues they will lose him, he has to feel accepted unconditionally, not because the law says so. My question is whether or not I have the right to say no to an iep, period, until this new school has the opportunity to get to know my son.

    • No a school must inform in writing any changes in which they want to implement or take away. Then you as the parent have to right to request an iep meeting in which you can voice your concerns. The whole point in an iep is for the educational team and the parents and student if appropriate to work as a team!

  21. 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.

    • 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.

  22. 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?

    • 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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?

  26. 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!

  27. 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

  28. 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.”

  29. 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!

    • 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.

  30. 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?

  31. 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?

  32. 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?

  33. 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,

  34. 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.


  35. 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?

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