01 October 2012

Stay Put

The time for Sheridan's second IEP came and went without a peep from our district. No big deal in my book... Stay Put is in effect so nothing changes. Additionally, it just so happens that Sheridan doesn't need any changes made to his supports/services. So I was perfectly happy exercising his right to Stay Put. Given that this topic has come up quite a bit lately in some discussions I've had with other parents, I thought I'd write a brief post about Stay Put.

What is Stay Put?

Bottom line, it means the school district is obligated legally to maintain the status quo. If the IEP team (meaning, the parents, educators, district personnel, etc) cannot reach an agreement on a new IEP, the district must leave the student in his/her current placement and the current IEP (educational placement, services, supports, etc.) must continue to be fully implemented.

Here is the actual language from IDEA, Section 615 Procedural Safeguards [20 U.S.C. 1415(j)]:

Maintenance of Current Educational Placement.--Except as provided in subsection (k)(4), during the pendency of any proceedings conducted pursuant to this section, unless the State or local educational agency and the parents otherwise agree, the child shall remain in the then-current educational placement of the child, or, if applying for initial admission to a public school, shall, with the consent of the parents, be placed in the public school program until all such proceedings have been completed.

Stay Put can last for a few weeks, a few months... I've even talked with families who have used it for YEARS. Basically, Stay Put is in effect from the time a dispute arises (in our case there was no dispute, Sheridan's last IEP - written through 09-01/2012 - simply "expired" so to say, but of course, IEPs never expire because of Stay Put), to the time it is settled (that can be via agreement and signing of a new IEP, mediation, hearings, etc.). 

A Few Things to Note

  • If your therapist or service provider changes (or any personnel changes), that doesn't necessarily constitute a violation of Stay Put as long as your child is receiving comparable services. 
  • Stay Put is not specific to location. For example, if your child is fully included in her elementary school's 3rd grade classroom, switching her to a new school (while still maintaining her full inclusion status) isn't necessarily a violation of Stay Put.
  • If the dispute is over the initial IEP (e.g., services, placement) then there is no Stay Put provision (because your child has no existing, current IEP with placement, services, etc.). 
  • Things can get a little tricky if your child is transitioning (say from preschool to kindergarten, or from junior high to high school) - that makes it hard to define "current educational placement" because keeping the child in preschool or middle school is not a viable option, yet the IEP does not have an existing placement for kinder or high school.
  • In some cases districts will request parents to waive their right to Stay Put if they are negotiating private school placement (just one example) - I'm not a lawyer and would never even pretend to give you legal advice, but I would strongly recommend you not sign any agreement that waives Stay Put. Just sayin' :)
This is obviously not an exhaustive list of potential implementation problems, and it's certainly not a thorough discussion of the Stay Put provision. It's always IEP season so I thought this might help in those instances where it's taking some time to reach agreement.

Back to Sheridan's IEP... I decided I would do the prudent thing and email his Program Specialist and request an IEP. Trying to be collaborative - on the up-and-up - and most importantly, giving my boy a chance to shine and show how great he's doing, how much he loves school, how much he's learning, that his support services are making an important difference for him, and that he is making an important difference in the lives of his teachers and classmates. The IEP is, after all, all about him!

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