Who Can Override an IEP?

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The IEP team, including the parents, agreed that a student would receive homebased instruction for part of the day for instruction in academic subjects.

He would attend vocational courses at the school the rest of the day. The school division superintendent decided to override the IEP team placement. Can he do that?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act states that all decisions about a child’s special education program and placement are made by the IEP team. Period.

The law does not provide for another individual, including a supervisor or superintendent, to overrule decisions made by the IEP team.

Despite this, it is not unusual for a principal or superintendent to try to overrule decisions made by the IEP team.

Legal Requirements for IEPs

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition,Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition
20 U.S.C. 1414(d), p. 99.

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What are the superintendent’s objections? Why did he “override” the IEP team?

If you know the basis of his objection (fear or concern), you may be able to reassure him.

Meeting the Child’s Needs

The IEP should be based on the student’s unique needs.

If the IEP team decides that the IEP you describe meets this child’s unique needs, the child can receive homebound instruction for academics, and attend vocational courses for part of the day.

It sounds like the placement decision by the IEP team was an effort to re-engage the student to return to school to complete his education and receive his IEP diploma.

  • Are there specific, measurable goals included in the IEP?
  • Is there a plan for the student to return school at a later date?

If the superintendent is successful in overturning the team’s plan, I doubt this boy will ever receive a diploma.

Perhaps this is why the law does not allow decisions to be made for “administrative  convenience.”

  1. I am a Special Education Teacher (Resource) in a K-6th school. We have a student with a low IQ; however, he didn’t qualify as ID, but rather as SLD due to some higher sub-scores. This poor kiddo struggles constantly! Although we have self-contained him this entire school year, we have now met with the LRE Committee on two separate occasions, showing data and time with him. We pull him for three hours a day. When we were denied a few months ago, the district put into place what they would like us to do additionally. We did those things and again kept data on his lack of progress. We just took him back to the LRE committee. They denied us once again for an academic support unit, and now stated that we need to include the OT, School Counselor, etc. I don’t know what more we can/need to do. I believe this may be due to inexperienced parents who don’t know how to advocate for their child and the district knows that. Any suggestions? This poor child is drowning in the general education classroom and even in my Resource classroom.

    • Labeling a child with an intellectual disability when they don’t have one is extremely harmful. It changes the future for the child. Inappropriately placing a child in an ID unit also causes damage that can’t be undone. The LRE committee is right to protect this child’s future by not misplacing him, but they need to offer you more supports to educate him.

    • LS, you are obviously a concerned, & caring person, & educator. It appears that the district is not providing FAPE for the child. If you have not documented this in writing up the chain of command, I suggest you do this. Someone could contact the state parent training & information project or the state education agency. http://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center

    • Your concern for this student are real and I’m sorry you have to experience this. All students with a disability deserve an appropriate educational and a right to thrive. This did this to my son. They didn’t do appropriate assessments. He too was drowning in Gen Ed he is 8 and started talking about not wanting to live anymore because life is too hard for him. I fought the school because I had a heaven sent advocate who taught me the ropes.

      6 months later my son is happy and thriving and the school by now knows not to play with me. They are by the book when it comes to my son’s education. I hope something tugs at that student’s parents to help them wake up to the educational system failing our children. Maybe an anonymous letter may be the nudge they need.

  2. It is difficult to get an answer to who decides in an IEP team (i.e. meeting). This is relevant when obviously wrong decision is being made. For example, ADHD often has an executive function (EF) deficit (problems self-motivating, deciding what is most important in the moment etc.). Some teachers (and parents) believe that punishment can improve EF, while there is overwhelming evidence that punishment is harmful in that context. What do you do if one teacher insists on using punishment? (like reduced grades, discipline office, out-of-school suspension etc.)

  3. My question seems simple, but I am sure it is more complex. I teach Industrial Technology (Wood Shop). I have an IEP student who needs one on one help with their project on a daily basis. The student does not have an aid that is with him all day, as he does not qualify for an aid for regular ed classes. In my class, I cannot sit with this student one on one due to the safety concerns with my other students. I have been told that we don’t have any extra aids to come sit with this student to help keep him on task, and that I would need to give him extra assistance. By sitting with him for the entirety of the class to help, I am jeopardizing the safety of my other students. Any ideas?

    • Emmett, As a teacher, suggest you inform the child’s parent, IEP team, special ed director, and/or principal that he needs more help than you can provide so you recommend that the team provide an aide during your class.

      Emphasize the danger/injury issues, as you did in your question. He needs an aide so he doesn’t get injured. Your other students are at risk of injury too if you can’t focus on them. Children with IEPs are entitled to “related services” that include services like speech-language therapy, PT, OT, and also classroom aides.

      Seems like administrators say “we don’t have any extra aides” until a child gets hurt. It’s better to prevent this from happening.

  4. My Question comes as a team member hired after the pandemic. Once a IEP goes beyond the 1 year & 1 day, I assume computer programs that have validation & compliance checks built in, will be flagged or not validated. Can an administrator validate the new IEP so the team can close out the IEP? I read that so long as the error is acknowledged within 10 days of the new IEP, that quality assurance teams will consider it appropriately addressed.

    • That would be a state decision on handling that. Someone needs to check with the state education agency on this.

      • I think that is a confusing answer. Only three things can end an IEP: 1) An IEP meeting deciding that the IEP is not needed anymore, 2) the student graduate, or 3) the student becomes 21 years old. I am not educated in law, can someone with the proper education please confirm?

  5. My Kindergarten son who has severe hearing loss, almost total,(specialists are still determining the amount of loss and what can be done to give him some hearing. He doesn’t speak words, only early stage babbling. Through his IEP is exempt from State testing is now being told he must take a state language assessment given orally. Can the state over ride his legal IEP?

    • If a student knew sign language, they might be able to require this. I would think that the state understands that a deaf, non-verbal student who does not know sign language cannot take an oral test.

  6. I just learned the school is pulling my son out to a resource room too much, instead of providing support in his reg Ed class. The IEP Team Introduction Letter indicates 690 mpw In resource room and 135 mpw with OT, PT, ST.
    I met with the team yesterday and the principal insisted that the resource room is gen ed.
    His iep defines his placement at 80-100% reg class.
    According to my math he’s missing 40% + in his reg Ed class, right?!
    Just trying to figure out my next steps.

    • If the resource teacher has a special ed certificate, and there are no non-special ed students in the room, it would be hard to say it is a general ed class. I suggest involving the special ed director, if you have not already done so. If you have, you may need to try to get the state education agency involved.

  7. My 12 year old son that just started 7th grade was diagnosed with Autism on top of his other diagnosis-es (ADHD, SPD and Anxiety) at the end of the year last year. They didn’t seem to want to change the the IEP because they said they are addressing his challenges. We asked for it to be listed however. We agreed but when we read the IEP copy which we just got back it and it was just a side note at the bottom. It’s worded like it was not even regarded as a diagnosis. We had a full neurophych done by a very highly regarded neurophychologist in Chicago because he was still struggling with behavior. In hind site all his struggles now make sense. They want to make it out to they are attention seeking behaviors and intentionally instead of lagging skills and neurological differences.

  8. I was recently told by our State Special Education Quality Assurance that the CSE chair can override the CSE committees decision.(this happened) I did not think this was true. I was told that it is stated in section 300 of the IDEA. I’ve looked and read and can not find it. Can someone please tell me if this is true and if it is where it states this in Part B of the IDEa

  9. Our IEP team evaluated a student and determined she did not qualify for special education services. Accommodations can be provided via a section 504 plan. The parent filed due process. There is a hearing date set for the fall, however the parents went to our principal, who has not been involved in this entire process, nor has she been a part of the determination, and spoke to the attorney for the school and told the attorney to provide and IEP because the parents threatened to go to the news. What action steps can we take to protect the team’s decision?

    • I have to ask, is the child hurt by the principal’s decision? And, is there an educational benefit to the child by having the IEP? These are the core issues. While I get that there may be hurt feelings on the part of some of the IEP team, the parents are a part of the team too, and they did not agree with the decision.

      When you talk of “the team’s decision” it doesn’t sound like you consider the parents to be part of the team. Maybe that’s how they felt, anyway. Hopefully when it is resolved, the child won’t be harmed and will benefit from whatever plan is in place.

  10. Our district has made a unilateral decision with other neighboring districts to not allow a related service to MANY students with the same disability. How can we as parents fight this?? The oppression we are experiencing is unacceptable, and our children are losing the most.

  11. According to the USDOE they tell me that nothing trumps the IEP, including the College Board,, ACT and the ib (International baccalaureate program). The FLDOE says that they can. My son has received his accommodations from both the College Board and ACT with few questions asked. However, the ib has been a different story. I don’t think it’s being presented correctly by the school. Looking forward to some insight on this issue.

  12. The special educator director in our district overruled the IEP team’s decision for my student to be placed in the district’s behavior-focused school. The entire team wanted this placement. Can the special ed director unilaterally do this without consulting with the parents or the rest of the team?

  13. My principal took my sped students from my sped classroom and put them in another sped classroom without an iep meeting to change their placement. Can she do this? She did this to move them from a self contained classroom for deaf students to a sped classroom for hearing students to mix them up more.

    • Technically this may be legal, since it is from one self-contained class to another. But it may or may not be set up to meet the students needs, so discussing this with the parents ahead of the change and allowing them to request an IEP meeting would be appropriate would be good, even if it is legal.

  14. We just had and IEP meeting for my daughter. She has dyslexia and has trouble with inferences and word retrieval. Another deficit she has is social integration and building peer relationships. At the meeting I asked what is being done to help her connect with other students. School said they are doing nothing because they cannot force other kids to connect with my daughter. I did not sign the IEP because the goals were vague and nothing about her social skills was added. School went behind my back and implemented the IEP! I asked for another meeting and my request was denied. Superintendent and special education director are also not helping. What should be my next step?

    • I am asking the grade as I have observed it is easier for schools to provide social integration when the kids are young when they are not in cliques and not as much on social media, etc. When they reach middle school and high school, some schools have peer mentors and peer mentoring clubs. Teachers, over the years, always coupled my daughter with special ed kids to be a peer mentor since she was very young (not with my permission) and burned her out at times and disrupted her learning in the classroom or enhanced it at times. My daughter is patient and has strong boundaries which helped many students and herself.She learned lifelong skills. She needed more support from the teachers as some of the students were complex and teachers should have a plan when they pair up students.

      • Hi Morning,
        My daughter is in Middle School 7th grade. The teacher does plan but most of her class are already friends so she just pairs them off together. Nobody wants to interact with my daughter. My heart breaks for her. She and I will be starting to look at some clubs and organizations outside of school so that she can interact with non-disabled peers in a positive manner. Hopefully that will help her. Mean time what do you think should be my next step with regards to the school and her social skills?

        • Camilla – Social skills as a functional goal should be easy enough for your school. I’m sure they could be creative if they REALLY tried. Sometimes a new or different activity is easier to pair kids up when they haven’t found partners. Or randomly picking names out of a hat rather than letting kids pick their own partners – the teacher’s in charge, right? Set the goals and let the school figure out how they get accomplished.

          I find that local clubs like the YMCA (in my area) are getting better at working with our kids. After school programs and summer camps are a great place for social interactions. Typical kids get to meet our kids without the pressures of school peer relationships. They learn how awesome our kids are and they become better advocates than many adults…hang in there!

        • I learned, in my kids’ early years, to put them in extracurriculars outside of school to build confidence. I did not want to depend on a school district or over burdened special ed teachers to fully implement the IEP. I know the reality from working in school districts. Work with one of the school club advisors and help the advisor to guide your daughter in those clubs and activities The school should try harder and make it work, but don’t wait for the school. Create opportunities for her outside of school for her confidence. What is her passion and follow that lead to activities. There are year-round programs. There are summer programs and camps for students with dyslexia to build reading skills and confidence. Also, research assistive technology –amazing resources!!!

  15. Can you please point out to me where in IDEA it states this is an IEP decision. My case manager and entire team agree my preschool twins require curb to curb transport. Less than 24 hours in advance of meeting, asst superintendent for special services had attorney email me letter allowing curb to curb only for remainder of this year, stating I had to file for due process after that and during that time no curb to curb would be given. Superintendent also forbid IEP team from amending IEP to include curb to curb,

    • Transportation is a related service that the IEP determines the need for. A determination of need would negate a state rule like a child must live X miles from the campus. (The school might not get reimbursed by the state, but that is a different issue.) You can ask for the legal basis for this decision, or file a request for a due process hearing or state complaint now. Each state has a federally funded disability rights agency that can assist parents with legal issues like this.

    • As far as I know, all decisions about your kid’s IEP are made by the team – not an individual at the school. If the entire IEP team says your kids need this service, it should be written in the IEP and the school should provide it.

      I know it says to look on page 99 in the Law book about the IEP and the team. The regulations help me understand the law – read on page 245. Section 300.320 says that IEPs have to be developed in a team meeting and meet all the requirements of the sections 300.320 – 300.324. Those sections describe who is on the team and and who makes the decisions based on your child’s needs. I don’t see anywhere in these sections that says the supt or asst supt alone can make the decision for the team. It’s based on your kids needs. If the school says your twins need it now (for the rest of the year) – what’s going to change after that? Why does the school say they will NOT “need” it after this year? It’s based on what the team determines your child needs, and like the article says, not what’s convenient for the school.

      On page 245 in the book, the regulations say the team reviews and revises the IEP, so the team (including you) revises/amends the IEP. Doesn’t say one person from the school can “forbid” amending the IEP. Did he really say that?

      I hope you are getting all of this down in writing so you can remember correctly everything he told you – and put all of your questions, concerns, to the school in writing. Did you get a copy of the written policy from the asst supt that authorizes him (or the attorney) to make this decision? Make sure you keep a copy of that email from the attorney.

      I would send/take a hand written letter thanking the asst supt for the information and restating EVERY thing he said (or told the attorney to say). If what you said is correct – the team says your child needs the transportation service, but the asst supt/attorney said you can only have it this year – and you would have to go to due process to get it after that – put that in the letter. Ask him to confirm that you correctly understood what he said. If not, ask him to clarify. Ask him to explain why he made this decision. And ask for any written school policy about this.

    • One last thing. Sounds like your meeting is coming up quickly, you may not have time to get your letters written before. I hate all the meetings, but if you can’t get this settled, you may have to ask for another meeting so you can get this worked out. I remember a form from wrightslaw – so look at this article. https://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/tips/bonnell.iep.attach.htm

      If you ask for something (curb to curb) and the schools says no – they have to explain why. Print this form for the meeting and don’t hesitate to pause to write down what the team says your child needs and what / why / who is rejecting your request.

  16. I live in NC, who can help me get my 10 year old non verbal autistic son into a special needs school the IEP team is refusing to help?

  17. I have full custody of my nephew i have had him for 4 years i started his iep and never have had to have his mother sign anything he is in a new school and said they have to have her sign papers because she still has her parent rights is this true?

    • If your full custody includes educational rights, they should honor your signature. Share your paperwork with someone above the campus level, if you have not already done so. I think this is a legal matter that needs to be settled at the district level. The state Dept. of Ed probably cannot help.

    • The paperwork should reflect that the teacher disagrees. It is best that it gives some detail on the reasons for this. The IEP team can proceed to implement what was decided. The dispute resolution processes IDEA, and state rules allow are generally designed for parents, but you may be able to make a state complaint.

  18. Can the state board override IEP requirements in regards to state testing? I am a student at a high school in Illinois who is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. According to my teachers, I cannot have my accomodations (my phone and notebook to listen to music and draw, respectively) while taking these tests. They said, quote, “We can send the accomdations to the state board, and they can either say ‘yes’ or ‘no.'” I’m afraid to say that I don’t have the best relationship of trust with my staff, so I find it unlikely that they would have pushed very hard to clarify what I legally deserve. I’m planning on talking about this with my parents. Is this a violation of the IEP laws? If so, who is at fault? The state board, or my teachers? What can I do to file a complaint?

  19. When a related service is discontinued without the presence at the IEP or any input from the service provider, can the service provider let the parent know that the service provider was intentionally not invited to the IEP and that no written progress report or any other communication has been requested of the service provider!

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