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. Can a District Judge in Family Court issue a court order requiring speech therapy to STOP in the schools? Does this override an IEP? One parent wants it the other does not

    • It appears you are talking about a situation where there is a question about who has the authority to make educational decisions for a child. If the judge rules that one parent does not have that authority, the school, & IEP team will not, or cannot challenge that.

  2. I Facilitate ARDs for a school district. A student transferred to our school with ARD paper work exempting him form taking several End of Course State assessments.Myself and the ARD committee felt as though the student still needed to attempt these state assessments one more time before being exempted form testing. A few days later we were overruled ad forced by district personnel to go with the previous school’s decision. Thoughts?

  3. I have a student with OHI who hit teachers and the principal with a log. He received alternative placement for 45 days per MDR. The superintendent overrides this and decreases the days to 15. We had an meeting about the child to return him to school and to be placed with me. The first day, he was fantastic. The second day, his mom brought him late and he received his medication late. The child eventually spiraled out of control as he ripped posters off of the wall, threw materials everywhere, jumped from table to table, jumped onto a filing cabinet, kicked and spat at us, and another adult had to restrain him 3 times. The child is out again, for now. Another MDR meeting is soon. Other students are losing FAPE because of the dangerous behaviors. What can I do to be heard ?

  4. What recourse do parents have or what course of action should be taken when Superintendent successfully overrides placement decisions by IEP Team?

  5. My son has a primary disability of OHI. He brought a pocket knife to school and was subsequently suspended bearing a manifestation hearing and potential expulsion. It was determined at the manifestation hearing the behavioral incident was a manifestation of his disability. I was informed by the LEA at that time that regardless of the IEP teams decision for having my student back in his regular ed class, she would override the decision and mandate an interim alternate educational setting for up to 45 days. His pocket knife blade was right at 21/2 inches. I am familiar with other manifestation hearing decisions in our district, as I am a school counselor (and turned in the knife per my role). In no other situation, in our district has the school taken this route. What are our rights

  6. I’m looking for a response to this concern. Can a state decide not to provide accommodations during a state assessment that are written into a child’s IEP? ex. I was told in my school system that the state of TN would not allow calculators during an assessment even if it was written in a child’s IEP. Is this legal?

  7. I am a substitute teacher. I continually advocate that substitutes need access to IEP information. I am always told it is confidential. HOW can a substitute teacher provide the needed services unless she/he is informed of what that IEP requires! I agree the WHOLE IEP does not need to be shared, but the SNAPSHOT does!

    SUBS need to know. Children need to receive services EVERY day… not just when the “regular” teachers are in the room!

    • I agree, Anna! Wholeheartedly. It is very helpful to know what IEP information may be helpful for a particular lesson being taught, or especially if you have a long-term substitute. And, if there are behavioral or technological needs, a substitute can be on board instead of clueless about how to interact and have good classroom management.

  8. my son is in dcf custody. since they took custody his whole education has been demolished. He has been assaulted at his last placement. After 6 mos of me advocating he was not receiving anything on his iep or furthermore his education. the team decided he would go back to the public school whether at his placement or not. then the program was not willing to continue to work with him after getting dragged down 2 flights of stairs and staff fired. Dcf then places him almost 2 hrs.away in a locked down facility saying there is no other placement. once there same thing no education. now court ordered 7 days to implement his iep which still didn’t happen. The school staff was trying to delete services they knew can’t be done where he is. asst prin stopped the meeting & deleted serv.

  9. My son was diagnosed by his doctor as speech delay at his 18 months checkup. We then took him to Child Find to have evaluation as speech delay. The Child Find would not provide service until he turned 2 yr old, so we went to seek help from Infant & Toddler Connection. We started to receive in home intervention service an hour a week pretty quick with ITC, and my son had made progress plus we got to learn the skills to help him.The public school called us to setup IEP in 4/2011.We did not have any idea about IEP. When we arrived at the IEP meeting, the teacher had already “drafted” an IEP for us to sign. After 3/4 semester I found he did not receive speech therapy which he needs. I want him to receive in home speech therapy so we can learn to help him, but the teacher keeps stopping us from requesting it.

  10. Shelly – They cannot unilaterally change an IEP without your permission or giving you a “prior written notice” if you did not agree. It sounds like you did not have a chance to disagree.

  11. my son started a new school this year in a new state. only the new school have changed all his IEP goals ? I asked about the old goals and have not recieved an answer. Is this legal to change goals when the goals were not mastered.

  12. There has never been a place on the IEP for a parent/legal guardian, etc to sign stating that we ( ) AGREE with this IEP or ( ) DISAGREE with this IEP. For more than 14 years I was told that “my attendance at the meeting was my agreement with it.” I was told I cannot do anything about the IEP, it cananot be changed.

    My daughter is 19 years old. The IEP was written with placement in a separate day school. They don’t have a separate day school here so today I have to fight for my daughter to keep her in school one more year, as she has not had the rights under the IDEA until August 2010. It will go to Court or Mediation, they don’t care. It’s been 16 years of “No!”

  13. I need to change my question concerning the “placement team”. Term “group of persons” is used in the regs. Who are the members of this “group” who makes placement decisions?

  14. The current federal regs state that the “placement team” makes makes placement decisions. Where is the “placement team” defined?

  15. Lisa – IEP meetings must be at mutually agreed upon times. It is not your problem if the school took such a long time to get the IEP meeting together that they may be out of compliance. The existing IEP will stay in place until you sign. Insist that you want your husband there. It will make a difference on how you get treated. I have always taken a digital tape recorder so that I don’ t have to worry about remembering everything that was said & I always let the school know I am bringing a tape recorder. You know what is best so tell them you want your husband there and they will have to come up with a way to do that. Remember you can request a DRAFT IEP ahead of time to review so you don’t have to feel pressured to sign before you know what you are reading and you don’t have to sign until you are sure.

  16. My son is having a triennial IEP this upcoming week. The date for the meeting is not convenient for my husband and I want my husband to be there. But, I was told that if the IEP is held a day later that it will be out of compliance. I can come that day, but I would rather have my husband with me.

    Can a parent request that an IEP be pushed out of compliance?

    Thanks! Need an answer fairly quickly.


  17. My new principal wants to change the model of teaching SETSS students from a pull out model to a push in one. He plans to use the SBS team in my NY school to set up meetings with the parents to change their IEPs to this model. Currently all the IEPS used state students are to be placed in a separate location. Without knowing the students and receiving input from his teachers he plans to violate the state law process of template of violations. What advice can you give me to advocate for my students?

  18. Children services of Oio refused to allow an advocate to be in my sons iep. Ohio department of education told me it was ok to have a conference call iep if my son wanted it.. children service refused to allow the advocate to have a conference iep meeting what can I do?

  19. My son who is now 5 has been in early intervention classes and now after an IEP they want to mainstream him with only an aide in the classroom 1 hr a day and for him to be taken out of the classroom 1 hr a day. He has autism as well as many other disabilities. His specialist ;put in writing that it would not be good for my son to be mainstreamed as well as his psychiatrist unless he has someone working with him 1:1 for the whole day. We moved and thought the new district would abide by what my sons specialists said but they are not. They said they are going to do it their way and would review it after 6 weeks. This is not good enough. All of us involved in my sons care think that even that short amount of time would be detrimental to him and others in his class. What can we do? Please help!!!!!

  20. My daughter was denied an appropriate math curriculum (language based) for first to fourth grade. This was provided at fifth grade, and given additional tutoring as well, but it was not sufficient to catch up the lost years. The entire team including the guidance counselor reccommended retaining her for one year for math, social, and ELA reasons,and we were in full agreement. The principal vetoed, adamantly. I realize retention doesn’t usually fall under IEP, but based on the reason of denial of the correct program for four years, and full support, recommendation by entire team (7), how can the principal go against the entire team and two agreeable parents? Superintendant, refuses to over ride principal as well.

  21. It’s funny how that sounds horrible that an administrator would override a decision made in an iep meeting by the iep team. But sometimes the iep team can make decisions the district can’t pay for or can’t by law carry out. For an example in my district an iep team decided that they could award a student a varsity letter on an athletic team whether or not the student actually earned this letter. Now is that not a decision that should have been overturned?

  22. Our School District usess the same IEP Goals for students throughout thier entire years of school they drop certain goals if they aren’t mastered after a certain period of time but these goals don’t meet the needs of each individual student. They aren’t written they are specific goals that are printed in a format and used year after year. The golas appear to be inapporpriate for a students in junior high and high school.
    The new high school our son attends the Teacher writes out short specific IEP goals for him to try and master that appear to be more age appropriate according to what subjects he is studying.
    Are their certain guidlines for students IEP Goals to be assigned according to their educational needs?

  23. What happens when the IEP team has personality and relationship problem with the parents? What can parents do when the IEP team does not want to help the child?
    Please help.

  24. At our son’s annual ARD Meeting the Committee members agreed that our son would be transferred to our Senior Campus for his 10th gr year.
    Our high school was consolidated with a freshman campus only and the other campus was for 10-12 gr. Just before school was due to be out in May I received word that our Campus Coordinator for the high school decided that our son would not be moving to the Senior Campus after all she thought it would be to overwhelming for him so she tried to overrule the original ARD Committee agreement which we refused to go along with. Also our District has kept Spec Ed students who are in the 10-12 gr on the freshman campus for 3 yrs and not letting them socialize with peers their own age. Can they do this legally?

  25. It appears as though the IEP team came to consensus through a legally defensible IEP team meeting, absent any missing IEP elements or the presence of the required IEP members. The superintendent does not have the authority to “override” any part of the IEP. However, I do believe it is in the Supe’s realm to request another IEP team meeting with hhim/her as the LEA rep…but what would be the point?

  26. Let’s look at this question from another angle. What happens if the CSTs decide to deny a needed program or related service, despite data, evaluations & documentation to support the child’s need? Can a director/ supervisor/superintendent overturn the CST decision or must a parent go through due process? Should a parent appeal to the BOE in Executive session? Where is the accountability ?

  27. Kendra – At the back of the NOREP should be a list of resources. Call every single one of them and someone should have services you can access. Here ARC would provide a free advocate and the state department of mental health could also provide services. They have some grant money to be used to attempt to keep “at risk” children out of the system which can be used for emergency services.

    I haven’t found a way to have a child take a year off but I’ve tried. If your state has cyber charter schools that may be an option. You may be able to work out an IEP for a reduced course load with them. Our state monitors homeschooling of identified students so that would be more work than help.

    Good luck to you and the child.

  28. If an iep is a legal contract between parent and district how can a state require mandated testing in areas not included in the iep and the hold student, teacher, and district responsible for outcome.

  29. Is there a time frame when the parents have called an emergency ARD, that the school has to schedule it? Can the parents request it within a week?

  30. Kendra – It sounds like a terrible time for you and your son. It is a good idea to have new testing done. If possible have this evaluated by your physician or psychologist to insure you understand what is going on and what the scores mean. Remember if you do not agree with the results you may have an outside evaluation done at public expense and you do not have to give them any more reason to do this other than you do not agree. The outside evaluation will give you some good recommendations for your son. For immediate situation you should try to have him put back in the situation as agreed upon by your IEP until the testing is done.

  31. Kendra – There is a place on the IEP where services are to take place. If the school made a unilateral decision without your approval/signature to change where these services are to take place than you will need to set up an IEP meeting right away to find out what is going on. Perhaps the change done with a proper transition plan to slowly move him from the class he is in to one or two classes and then periodically check on progress before making additional changes would be better for him. My son was to be transitioned from IEP services to the regular ed classroom. The school wanted to “dump” him from getting services to the regular classroom in one move. We had a transition plan to slowly change him from resource room to the regular classroom with periodic checks to be sure it was working.

  32. I want to add to my previous question. My son absolutely “hates” school since he was rubberstamped out of the IEP and put in full day general population with honors classes.He entered the 6th grade not knowing what was even going on.The elementary school never forwarded any IEP papers. My son feels like a failure & he had so much stress from his mother dying and the school rubberstamping him,now has tics, and outbursts, and does not even know homework from unfinished school work. The BOE will not talk to me about my son being taken out of IEP, but they are trying to cover themselves now. by re-evaluating him for IEP again.Good idea but the damages that were done over the past 3 yrs are significant.Alex needs a break,I am dying,were moving,he needs to adjust to his little world.I want to take him out of school for a year,is this illegal?

  33. My son was in IEP from grade 1-3. In 4th grade he had a new teacher. My son had a new teacher who I spoke with before the school year started.I was told by this teacher who did not even know my son and not during an IEP meeting, that my son was doing so well during the previous years,they wanted to blend him into Gen Pop,for a couple of classes.I agreed that he would do well.There was no communication at all as promised by his IEP teacher all year. After 3/4 of school was over,we found out that the Autism Class,(IEP class), had set up a fake desk with a name card on the desk for my son.He was told to deposit his coat & lunch box in the IEP class and he was blended to gen pop all day, some classes were even honors classes! His academics have gone downhill ever since this has been done. Was this legal to be decided upon by a sole teacher?

  34. So what’s to keep a parent from filing a compliance complaint for this widespread practice of remote, teamless placement? Could a lone parent file a complaint against the district for violating IDEA, not just for her own child but for the systemwide practice? Could the district be ordered to stop the practice and follow the law for all IEPs?

  35. Addressing the inverse of the issue. If the IEP team does not specifically invalidate or modify a district policy as it may affect a child with a disability, does the district policy control both the child and the district?

    If a district policy or its implementation (or failure to implement) affects a child’s access to a FAPE, may a hearing officer address the issue in a DP hearing?

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