Inside: Discover IDEA ‘stay put’ rights. Ensure your child’s current special education placement remains during disputes. Learn more about this important IDEA provision.

I find that “IEP Stay Put” or “pendency” is one of the most misunderstood concepts of the IEP process. Many parents ask me to send them a “stay put letter template” for them to send to their district so they can “invoke stay put.” It doesn’t work that way.

The IDEA stay-put provision is a right that our kids have. Pendency in special education allows our kids to remain in a placement while disputes are resolved. This is to minimize disruption.

A boy with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is sitting in front of a whiteboard in a classroom.

Pendency and stay put are the same thing.

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IDEA Stay Put Provision

(a) Except as provided in §300.533, during the pendency of any administrative or judicial proceeding regarding a due process complaint notice requesting a due process hearing under §300.507, unless the State or local agency and the parents of the child agree otherwise, the child involved in the complaint must remain in his or her current educational placement.

Sec. 300.518 Child’s status during proceedings

So, let’s tackle it. That way, parents can learn how to use it as necessary. But pendency or stay-put rights do not always work in your favor.

What is “Stay Put” and an IEP?

In the context of an Individualized Education Program (IEP), “stay put” refers to a legal principle known as “stay-put placement” or “pendency placement.” This principle is important to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The “stay put” provision states that during disputes or disagreements between parents and school districts regarding a child’s special education services or placement, the child is entitled to remain in their current educational placement (often referred to as their “stay-put” placement) while the dispute is being resolved through due process or legal procedures.

In other words, if a parent believes that the school district’s proposed changes to their child’s IEP are not appropriate and they initiate a dispute, the child has the right to continue receiving the services and placement outlined in their most recent, agreed-upon IEP until the dispute is resolved.

This principle is meant to ensure that the child’s education is not disrupted during disagreements or legal proceedings and that they continue to receive an education that is in their best interest.

It’s important to note that “stay put” applies to the child’s current placement and services at the time of the dispute, and it is not necessarily an endorsement or approval of that placement by the school district.

What does Pendency mean in IEPs?

First, let’s take a  look at the dictionary definition of pendency:

noun, plural pendencies.
1. the state or time of being pending, undecided, or undetermined as of a lawsuit awaiting settlement.

In this case, it is not a lawsuit but a Due Process Hearing.

iep pendency stay put

What are my Stay Put Rights?

And where can you find them? I’m glad you asked!

Guess what?!? They are in Procedural Safeguards! Yes, really.

This is why NOT reading your Procedural Safeguards makes my Top 10 list of Parent IEP Mistakes.

Pendency or Stay Put is officially known as “Child’s status during proceedings (Sec. 300.518).”

Ugh, but I do not want to read ten pages of legalese….what does it mean?

Pendency and IEP

It means that while your IEP is in dispute, the child “stays put.” Or, as IDEA says, is “the last agreed upon placement.”

That’s it. What is the last IEP you received that you signed off on as far as a PWN?

That is the IEP that you use until the disagreement is worked out.

Pendency and Stay Put can work for you AND against you.

If your child is receiving services and the district is trying to reduce/remove them, the child will continue to receive them until the dispute is resolved. So, that can be a good thing.

However, let’s say you want your child’s placement moved or you want them to get 1:1, or more services. Nope.

The child will not receive any of those things until the dispute is worked out.

This can be particularly stressful if the child is in a hostile or bullying situation and the team does not agree to change/move.

Stay Put Means the Entire IEP

This has come up on our chat forums once in a while. And on my Facebook page when this article is shared.

A parent will chime in, “Yeah, but can I just ask that ABC happen until….”

No. Stay put means the entire IEP stays put as written. If the parent and the school agree otherwise, changes can be made. I’ve never seen that happen because the parents are in a formal dispute-resolution process with the school.

The entire IEP remains frozen.

Do you know what your IEP rights are?
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Is Stay Put Just for Due Process?

Not necessarily. It varies by state.

Here in PA, you can use it for mediation as of 2008. Check your state’s special education regulations on this.

However, a new IEP should not take effect until the team agrees, and you can read below how you disagree. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on the Internet.

But services or anything else should not be removed from an IEP until the new IEP starts, and it doesn’t start until all parties agree.

If your child is still missing services or instruction during this time, keep a log of it and see a lawyer about seeking comp ed.

Pendency/Stay Put means Everything in the IEP.

This is where parents don’t always see the big picture.

Pendency includes everything in the IEP.

Including the diagnosis/classification check box. Yes! Think about this!

How many parents do I hear from in districts trying to move their kid from Autism to Emotionally Disturbed? No!

If you don’t want it, don’t do it. Fight it. They cannot change ANY part of the IEP except as a team decision.

Please know that not a lot of parents, teachers, and administrators do not know this. They mistakenly think that pendency/stay put only refers to placement or frequency of services.

It doesn’t. It’s everything. It says so quite clearly–“the last agreed upon IEP.”

“Great, easier said than done,” you say.

Stay Put in Special Education

You can do this; really, you can.

First, I would do an initial consult with an attorney if you are considering filing for Due Process. An initial consult is anywhere from free to a couple of hundred dollars, but it is usually worth it.

I find parents have internal biases and preconceived notions about what a special education attorney is, what they do, what due process is like, and most importantly–whether or not you even have a case.

A consult will clear that up.

How to Use Stay-Put Rights in Special Education (as a Parent)

  1. Know your State’s Regulations.
  2. Do a few Google searches or call your state’s parent training center and ask about Pendency/Stay Put. It’s not as simple as declaring I want him to stay put!
  3. Ensure you are participating in ALL 5 parts of the IEP process that are conducive to parent input.
  4. If you have not done that but recently had an IEP meeting, you must at least do yours after the IEP meeting letter. This helps to ensure that the new IEP you receive is what you expect.
  5. Learn IEP Prior Written Notice and USE IT! I cannot say this enough. Learn what a PWN is and how to use it. Then, after the meeting, if they say great, thanks, you could just put that and why you denied the 1:1 on a PWN and send it to me. By law, they have to do this. If they refuse a PWN, consider a state complaint.
  6. Once you receive your PWN, you have your choices to make IEP Mediation, IEP Due Process, etc.
  7. Proceed accordingly, and once you have done so, you have exercised your Procedural Safeguards.

Stay Put Letter

Yes, there is such a thing as a “stay put letter.” A stay-put letter is a formal written notice provided to parents or guardians by a school district or educational agency in response to a dispute regarding a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or special education placement.

This letter typically serves to inform the parents of the school district’s decision regarding the “stay-put” placement of the child during a dispute.

When a dispute arises between parents and a school district over proposed changes to a student’s IEP, parents may request that the child’s current placement and services remain unchanged until the dispute is resolved through the appropriate legal channels.

In response to this request, the school district or educational agency may issue a stay-put letter, formally notifying the parents of the decision to maintain the child’s current educational placement and services as outlined in their most recent, agreed-upon IEP.

The content and format of a stay-put letter may vary depending on state and local regulations, but it typically includes information about the child’s current placement, services, and any relevant timelines for dispute resolution.

This letter helps ensure that the child’s education is not disrupted while disagreements are being addressed through due process or legal procedures.

Sample Stay Put Letter

Parents often ask me if I have a “sample stay put letter” that they can edit and send. It’s not an unreasonable request because I have dozens of IEP letter templates here on the site.

But, the request is usually misguided, and they include the phrase to me, “because I want to invoke stay put.”

That’s not how stay-put placement or pendency works. A parent doesn’t declare stay put.

Stay put is tangent to IEP disputes. To “invoke stay-put” as some wish to do, you must be in a formal dispute with your school district.

Read your procedural safeguards to learn all of your dispute resolution options.

Read More about Pendency/Stay Put:


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