Stay Put 101

Article
Nov. 8, 2022Updated Jan. 11, 2023

The “stay put” provision of IDEA is one of the most important procedural safeguards to protect the rights of children with disabilities and their parents when disagreements occur with the school. Stay put can be invoked when you ​​dispute a change that the school or school district wants to make to your child’s educational placement, allowing your child to do just that: stay put in the current educational placement and continue receiving the same services until the dispute is resolved.

The stay put provision is an important advocacy tool for parents; it ensures that your voice holds weight when it comes to your child’s education. To look at when to invoke stay put, when it doesn’t apply, what it means to go to due process, the difference between placement and location, and what to consider before signing an agreement, we sat down with Kelly Rain Collin, EdM, education consultant, advocate, and director of Healthy Minds Consulting, as well as Undivided Education Advocate Lisa Carey.

What is stay put in special education?

How can I invoke my stay put rights?

There are two resolution options during which you can invoke stay put: state mediation and due process. Mediation gives parents the free-of-cost opportunity to resolve the disagreement with the school district with the help of a state-trained mediator. A due process hearing is a formal meeting to resolve the dispute and is presided over by a judge. (You can read our in-depth guide to due process in this article!)

In California, special education arbitration is handled by the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). Both sides make their case, and when the Administrative Law Judge makes a decision, it becomes an enforceable, public document. However, this decision often obligates the school district only until the next annual IEP.

Key takeaways:

  • Stay put may be invoked after:

    1. A parent disputes, in writing, the proposed changes made in a prior written notice document.
    2. A parent files a request for mediation or due process before the proposed implementation date listed in the PWN.
    3. In the state of California, stay put may also be invoked when a parent is disputing certain aspects of an IEP and has partially signed the rest.
  • Before any changes to the IEP are implemented, you must be given a prior written notice (this varies from state to state — it’s 15 days’ notice in California). The timeline begins when the school district sends the written notice.
  • Stay put remains active during any appeals process, which might take weeks, months, or even years from the initial proposed change.
  • Usually, stay put will automatically go into effect when you file for due process or mediation; if it does not, an order would have to be made to the district during your filing of due process. Disability Rights California has a sample stay-put request letter that you can include when requesting mediation or due process.

For a more detailed summary of procedural safeguards and parental rights in special education, check out our article here!

Can an IEP stay in stay put forever?

What are the exceptions to stay put?

There are a few situations where stay put doesn’t apply, such as if a student doesn’t have an IEP, or if disciplinary actions are involved. If a student is dealing drugs, carrying weapons, or violating codes of conduct resulting in severe bodily harm, the school can change that student’s placement for up to 45 days. But during those 45 days, the school is required to provide services that address those behaviors and situations. (You can read more in our article about school discipline for students with disabilities.) Stay put also doesn’t apply when moving from Part C to Part B of IDEA because in this situation, there would be no “current IEP” with a “current educational placement” in which to stay put.

In this clip, Carey explains this and a few other exceptions to stay put:

What is the difference between placement and location in an IEP?

For more information, check out our article outlining the continuum of educational placements.

Can I partially sign an IEP?

Does stay put apply if I don’t agree with a specific provider?

What are my next steps?

If you’re thinking about invoking your stay put rights, it’s a good idea to learn about procedural safeguards and how to file for due process and mediation. For a detailed look at what you can do once you’ve determined which components of your child’s IEP you disagree with, read our article on reviewing and signing an IEP.
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Contents


Overview

What is stay put in special education?

How can I invoke my stay put rights?

Can an IEP stay in stay put forever?

What are the exceptions to stay put?

What is the difference between placement and location in an IEP?

Can I partially sign an IEP?

Does stay put apply if I don’t agree with a specific provider?

What are my next steps?

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Related Parent Questions

What should I do if I disagree with the IEP?
If you agree to some aspects of the IEP but disagree with others, consider signing a partial agreement. The IEP will be implemented while those components will remain on “stay put,” meaning those areas of disagreement will follow whatever is in the previously signed IEP.
What happens at a due process mediation meeting?
Learn about what to expect when you are attending a mediation meeting as part of due process and how the parties may come to an agreement.
Do I have to sign my child’s IEP before the end of the school year?
You can sign the parts that should be in place before summer, like extended school year (ESY). Ideally, you’ll address transitions too so that things are already in place on the first day of school in fall.
What is a PWN?
Prior written notice (PWN) is a document from the school that is sent to parents notifying them of a change the school wants to make or refuses to make.
What should I do after receiving prior written notice from my child's school?
Once a PWN is received, you can reconvene with your IEP team to figure out the issue and work toward a resolution together.

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