Understanding “Stay Put”


I am always bewildered at the number of parents with children that qualify for an Independent Educational Program (“IEP”); where those parents do not understand the concept of “Stay Put.”

Put simply, stay put is one of the most powerful tools a parent has to control proposed changes to the placement and services offered by a school district at an IEP meeting. It is the power of a parent to say NO!

First, context. An IEP meeting is supposed to be a team meeting. The reality is that anything offered in writing at an IEP meeting is ultimately controlled by the school district. Parents DO HAVE significant influence by addressing what is in the best interests of their child; however, an IEP meeting is not a democratic event. However, parents have two critical tools at their disposal when the school district offers an inappropriate placement or scope of services; that is, stay put and due process. Due process often requires the services of an advocate or an attorney; it is where the parent litigates against the school district. In contrast, stay put is simply the power of expressing NO to either an entire IEP or specific components of an IEP; thereby taking away the power of the school district to implement its proposed changes to the child’s placement or scope of services; except by court order. That is, the unilateral power of a parent to stop inappropriate changes to an IEP.

When a parent takes the steps of imposing stay put the parent leverages that power to negotiate a better offer on behalf of their son or daughter. Stay put stops the school district from implementing specific changes. Thus, from a school district’s perspective the IEP is unresolved. School district administrators prefer certainty to uncertainty; thus, if the school district wants resolution it must either negotiate with the parent or litigate the matter.

From a legal perspective, under federal and state law, a special education student is entitled to remain in his current educational program pending the completion of a due process hearing; this entitlement is referred to as “stay put.” [20 U.S.C. § 1415(j); 34 C.F.R. § 300.51; Ed. Code §§ 48915.5, 56505]. For purposes of stay put, the current educational program is defined as the last agreed upon IEP implemented prior to the dispute arising [Thomas v. Cincinnati Bd. Of Educ. (6th Cir. 1999) 918 F.2d. 618, 625].

Stay put is not discretionary for a school district; it is a requirement. Most importantly, the purpose of stay put is to prevent a school district from unilaterally changing a student’s educational program without the parent’s consent [Honig v. Doe (1988) 484 U.S. 305,323]. Thus, even if a parent has not filed for a due process hearing, a school district generally cannot unilaterally change a special education child’s placement or scope of services except by the parent’s consent or a court order. There are always some legal exceptions to every general rule of law; for example, if a parent explicitly consented in a previous IEP that a specific service was to be terminated on a specific date and no longer to be provided, that situation under some circumstances can be an exception to “stay put.” However, more likely than not in most circumstances, stay put is operative when a parent simply expresses NO to an adverse offer by a school district.

Please note, that stay put should be expressly stated in writing by a parent, ideally within the IEP document.

As former first lady Nancy Reagan often expressed, simply say NO!

Please note, that this Newsbrief is a general explanation of the law and may not be appropriate for a unique set of circumstances. Attorney consultation should be considered.



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Becoming An Effective Advocate Means Knowing What To Do, How To Do It, And What Your Rights Are

By Nam Waldman, Esq.


Children, adolescents and young adults need to learn to become effective advocates independent of their parents. Children can and do learn advocacy skills by seeing effective advocacy modeled by a parent. When parents return home discouraged after attending a school meeting, children may not be inspired to learn effective methods of dealing with their responsibility for self-advocacy. Once children leave high school, they must advocate for themselves, and IEP meetings do not continue indefinitely throughout life.
With adequate preparation, time and effort, a parent can partner with an advocate to work towards immediately change the educational environment for children with disabilities. In the long term, teaching advocacy skills is the most appropriate use of an advocate’s time: teaching the necessary executive functioning skills of advocacy to mothers and fathers is critical so that parents can teach their children. My goals, as both an advocate and a parent, are simple: (1) to educate every child, and (2) to teach every parent I meet to become a better advocate. We are always improving as advocates. I believe that once every student becomes an effective advocate for him or herself, we will see less truancy, defiant behavior, depression, and other manifestations of discontent with the failure of social institutions to provide a basic need: education and the self respect it brings.
It is especially important for students who have left or graduated from high school to advocate effectively for themselves. After high school there is no longer an IEP team to consider and evaluate a student’s academic needs. The necessary educational services and accommodations must instead be articulated and requested by the student. It is up to older students to decide whether they want to divulge to their post-secondary schools that they have disabilities, and then to take the next steps — to identify and then request the accommodations or services they will need. By then, they will have learned from their parents how to effectively get the accommodations and educational services needed.
Every parent of a child with a disability who is a student in California has the right to receive one free book annually. It is titled A Composite of Laws, published by the California Department of Education. The book is published each year and we are currently about to see the 31st edition, containing laws enacted the previous year about special education in the State of California. It contains all sorts of wonderful resources.
In my opinion, the index in the back is the best part of the book. It contains ‘searchwords’ for quick reference, much like an encyclopedia’s index. For example, if you have a question and want to read about ‘least restrictive environment,’ all you have to do is to look up the word in the index, and turn to the pages for the information you want. Using ‘flags’ to write on — and keep your place — will help you to organize your research in A Composite of Laws. Get the book by telephoning (800) 995-4099 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PST, Monday through Friday. Be patient, and prepared to identify yourself as “a parent of a child with a disability” and tell the person who answers the name of the school your child attends so that you are eligible to receive a free copy (we don’t need to identify our children). Otherwise, the book is $29.95 plus $5.95 shipping and handling. You will need to provide an address so the book can be shipped to you.
Visit this link for more information from the California Department of Education: https://www.cde.ca.gov/re/pn/rc.

Nan Waldman, Esq. is a special education and disabilities consultant with 20 years of experience in the field. She is also a parent and primary caregiver of a child with disabilities, a teacher, an advocate and a lawyer.

Stevia: Nature’s Great Sweetener

By Noah Samuels /  Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist

Many people ask me about finding a good sweetener alternative to sugar. White sugar, cane sugar, fructose, or turbinado, are all just sugar. Sugar is high on the glycemic index, which means that it goes right into the blood stream as sugar. Carbohydrates also turn into sugar in the body at varying rates depending on the food.

Sugar in small amounts is necessary. However, most of us get way more sugar than we need. Sugar can have a profound affect on energy, mood, and wellbeing. We should all try to limit the amount of sugar in our diets. People who have any kind of mood disorder, ADHD, learning disabilities, hypoglycemia, weight gain and/or diabetes need to limit their intake of sugar.

Artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, Equal, Sweet and Low are all just that: artificial! They are synthetic products made out of chemicals. In essence, I would rather people have actual sugar than these products for raw cane sugar is, at least, natural. However, realistically speaking, we need to limit our sugar.

Honey is lower on the glycemic index than sugar, however it is still pretty high. Fruits can vary on the glycemic index scale depending on the fruit. Watermelon being the highest, cherries being the lowest. You can go to this website: https://www.southbeach-diet-plan.com/glycemicfoodchart.htm for a more complete gylcemic index chart. You can print it out and put it on your refrigerator door. Try to keep your glycemic intake in the low to moderate range.

Stevia is a genus of about 240 species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), native to subtropical and tropical South America and Central America. The species Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, commonly known as sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sugar substitute, stevia’s taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar. Not only is stevia a zero on the glycemic index, research has shown that it is effective at combating obesity and hypertension, as well as enhancing glucose tolerance for diabetics.

Noah Samuels is a Licensed Acupuncturist, herbalist and nutritional counselor specializing in the natural treatment of ADD/ADHD in pediatrics and adults.

What You Should Know About Setting the Tone at IEP Meetings

By Nan Waldman, Esq.

It can be uncomfortable for parents to attend meetings to design an Individual Education Program (IEP) for students with disabilities. We as parents together face an IEP ‘team.’ To many of us parents, it feels like ‘us against them’ because we face an assembled team of employees of the school or school district. It can be overwhelming when a parent feels that a number of school officials are evaluating her child and her parenting skills.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, attend IEP meetings with an objective close friend or advocate. Parents who are understandably emotionally involved will feel that IEP meetings are less adversarial when there are also capable human beings on ‘their’ side.

The first thing to do is to set the tone of the meeting. The goal is to get a feeling of ‘we are in this together for the good of the child.’ To do this, someone very familiar with the student should talk honestly, affectionately, and with passion to describe the child. Photographs at this point are very helpful. So is actual attendance by the child at the IEP meeting, even if only for a few minutes. Most adults at the IEP meeting may not know the child very well, and seeing a young face is a good reminder to all present that each is responsible for something important which is happening in the life of the child they are seeing. The goal is to coalesce positive feelings about the child – and to motivate the team to want to create an IEP plan which will be effective.

Then, parents (or, an advocate) explain that the IEP team will be deciding the education plan – as a team. It is helpful to remind those present and to note out loud that each person on the team has expertise to be respected and considered by the group.

Sometimes, after all the substance of the IEP plan has been discussed, parents receive an IEP document which does not accurately reflect their understanding of what occurred – or should have occurred — during the meeting. It is NEVER a requirement to sign an IEP document at the end of an IEP meeting. You have a right to receive a document in your primary language, and parents are well advised to bring the IEP document home and read it thoroughly to understand every part of it before signing it. There will be a place to agree with the document as a whole, but you should disagree with the parts of it which do not meet with your understanding of what your child needs.

©2008 by Nan Waldman, Esq.

Nan Waldman, Esq. is a special education and disabilities consultant with 20 years of experience in the field. She is also a parent and primary caregiver of a child with disabilities, a teacher, an advocate and a lawyer. Nan Waldman, Esq. can be reached by email at  n.waldman.esq@gmail.com.