Are parent signatures on IEPs required? Occasionally, school staff will encounter difficult parents at an IEP Team meeting. Imagine this scenario: Mr. and Mrs. ABC are “red flag” parents, known for speaking harshly to staff at IEP meetings and trying to intimidate staff.  The Team presses on, despite the discomfort, and develops an IEP and then determines that Student’s LRE is placement in a self-contained special education classroom.  Mr. and Mrs. ABC disagree and demand that Student be placed in general education setting with support.  Mr. and Mrs. ABC refuse to sign the IEP with the LRE of self-contained special education classroom, and turn to Principal and say “We will not sign this IEP.”

So now the question arises: can an IEP be finalized and adopted if parents refuse to sign?

Answer: Yes.  Parents do not have veto power over the IEP team’s decisions, except as to whether their child should be assessed or found eligible for special education services; in that instance, parent can withdraw the child from the special education process.

A parent is a mandatory participant of an IEP team meeting, however the IDEA does not require that a parent sign an IEP in order for it to be implemented.  34 C.F.R. 300.321; 71 Fed. Reg. 46,682 (2006) [“there is nothing in the Act that requires IEP members to sign the IEP and we believe it would be overly burdensome to impose such a requirement.”).

During an IEP meeting, the team must consider:

  • Strengths of child;
  • Concerns of parents regarding education;
  • Most recent evaluation data;
  • The academic, functional, and developmental needs of the child; and,
  • The team may also need to consider special factors such as communication and behavior.

While Parent input is required and important, a parent does not have VETO power over the IEP Team’s decisions, with one exception, which is that if a parent does not agree that their child should be assessed or found eligible for special education services, they can withdraw the child from the entire special education process.

The IDEA mandates that parents be part of any group that makes decisions on a child’s educational placement.  34 C.F.R. 300.501.   Educational placement is a team decision, not a unanimous team decision.  Parents and the district do not have an “equal vote” in formulating the student’s IEP.  Buser v. Corpus Christi Indep. Ch. Dist., 20 IDELR 981 (S.D. Tex. 1994).  However, it is important to note that if parents disagree with a placement decision, they can exercise procedural safeguards.  Keep in mind that if parents do exercise their procedural safeguard and file a due process complaint because they disagree with an IEP team placement decision, the “stay put” rule goes into effect.  Stay put requires that once a due process complaint has been filed, the student must remain in his “current educational placement,” unless parents and district agree to change placement, during the administrative or judicial proceedings.  34 C.F.R. § 300.507.  “Current educational placement” is not defined by the IDEA, but has generally been interpreted to mean the placement provided in the most recently approved IEP, in other words, the IEP functioning when the dispute arose.  See Drinker v. Colonial Sch. Dist., 23 IDELR 1112 (3rd Cir. 1996).

Practical Tips:

  • Ensure that district members of IEP teams understand that parent input must be considered and documented.
  • Train district IEP team members to treat parent input with respect and attention so that parents feel they are being heard.
  • Do not make an IEP decision or placement decision simply to appease a difficult parent. Make the decision the majority of the team feels is appropriate.

If the school team and the parent disagree, the LEA makes the final decision and must document it in a Prior Written Notice.  The IEP can then be implemented, unless parent files for due process.


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