Federal Law: The “Stay Put” Rule

Birth Injury, Education, Tips for Parents

CPFN Special Contributors Anita Howell and Lisa Viele explain the federal “Stay Put” rule—which gives parents a voice when making decisions about their children’s education—and how it impacted Anita’s son, Ryan.

Text: Ever walk into an IEP (Individualized education plan) meeting and feel overpowered by the teachers and their plans? The federal “Stay Put” rule puts the power in your pocket!

Anita: The other thing I wish I’s known about was the “Stay Put” rule because I go into those meetings so many times thinking. “Oh my gosh, my heart, my child’s entire education is on my shoulders. If I blow this he’s not going to benefit from his education.” Tremendous stress.

I found that little Stay Put clause. I was dancing around the living room, my husband’s laughing at me like “Yeah, you’re crazy,” but the Stay Put clause is put in by the federal government to say that you can’t change a child’s plan back and forth. If it’s gonna be appealed and you’re saying “I don’t want you to do it” because… that’s the thing… they’ve always wanted to take OT and PT—occupational therapy and physical therapy—out of his plan and rather than have the school take that out of the plan and then you appeal it and win and put it back in, that child’s gone up and down. They’ve taken things away and now he’s been without it. And then they put it back in because you win, so what the federal government says is “There’s a ‘Stay Put’ clause. If it’s in dispute, leave the way it is. Let’s just go through the appeals process and then if the school wins, you can take it out.”

And so now you go into the meeting, and you know that all you have to do if they start talking about something that you were not aware of, you can just say, “You know, I want to dispute this. Write it in your notes, please—because there will be a note-taker there—tell them you want it put in the notes that ‘I dispute taking occupational therapy out of my child’s plan, therefore you can’t take it out.’” And then usually the school will say ‘Yeah, we don’t want to appeal that. OK, mom, we’ll let you have that.’”

Lisa: (laughing) That’s the way to do it.

Text: Jordan’s mother, Nicole, had no idea the Stay Put rule existed. “They changed my child’s school without me knowing about it.”

Nicole: So, when I went to register him for Fox Meadows the second year, they told me that they had transferred him to Shrine and I was very disappointed that they did that without even contacting me and letting me know that they changed my child to another school, and it was a school for children with special needs only. I thought that he would be better off in a school that included all children.

I never heard of the “Stay Put” rule. I wish I had known about that when Jordan was switched from Fox Meadows to Shrine because that rule would have allowed me to keep Jordan in an inclusive school where he could have developed a lot more than he developed at Shrine.

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