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Can my Child’s IEP be Denied if they have Good Grades?

Unfortunately, it’s quite common for schools to deny an IEP or 504 plan based solely on their academic performance. Not all children who need special education fit the cookie cutter mold and stereotypes of kids in special education. A child could be doing exceptionally well academically while still needing special education support and accommodations. 

My request to get my youngest son an IEP was initially denied because he was doing well academically and wasn’t struggling with his grades even though he had a diagnosis of ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). It took me almost the entire school year to finally realize that the school’s denial based solely on his grades was not a valid reason to deny him special education. I was exhausted as I watched his behavior continue to negatively impact his learning. I sought additional psychological testing for my child to provide additional justification from yet another psychiatrist and requested an IEP based on his diagnosis and behavior. In hindsight, I should have requested the school to evaluate him for special education.

How does the School Justify their Denial?

In my case, the school initially denied my request based solely on his academics. If this happens to you, it’s important to get the IEP denial in writing. If they don’t give you the denial in writing, ask your school or the school district to send you the denial in writing. Additionally, ask the school in writing what laws they relied on to make their determination. I recommend responding to the school in writing that the Individuals with Disabilities Special Education Act (IDEA) states “Each State must ensure that FAPE is available to any individual child with a disability who needs special education and related services, even though the child has not failed or been retained in a course or grade, and is advancing from grade to grade.” You should not have to wait until your child’s grades drop significantly or until they fail a grade to get them evaluated.

What Should I do if my Child’s IEP is Denied based on Academics?

If your school denies your child’s IEP based on academics, you should write the school a letter or email explaining that the school is required to evaluate children under Section 300.502 of the IDEA. You must formally request an IEP evaluation to determine if your child is eligible for special education. You should request the evaluation in writing and explain in detail all of the challenges that your child is experiencing in the classroom and at home while doing their homework. If the school says no, you should contact your school’s IEP coordinator or the school district’s IEP or special education director. I included my son’s charter school’s IEP coordinator in all of my emails to make sure that they were aware of my requests. You want to communicate in writing so you have a record of every communication you have with the school or any member of the school administration. To stay organized, you can file all communication in a communication log in an IEP binder or folder.

How Should I Request an evaluation and IEP?

You should always communicate in writing. You should write a letter or email specifically requesting that your child receive an evaluation for special education. Define the suspected disability and explain how they struggle in the classroom and at home. Give specific examples of what you are seeing firsthand and what your child is telling you. You can also provide input from their physician, primary care manager, counselor, and any other mental health provider that can help explain your child’s struggles and why they should be evaluated.

Should I Request a 504 Plan?

If the school continues to tell you that your child isn’t eligible for an IEP, you can ask if they are eligible for a 504 plan. 504 plans can provide additional accommodations in the meantime. It’s important to make sure that the school uses the 504 analysis. 504 analysis looks at whether your child is substantially limited in a major life activity and if yes, what specific supports are needed to provide your child with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

You could also ask for a 504 plan and continue to advocate for an IEP to get your child assistance and accommodations now while you continue to advocate for an IEP. You can also ask the school if there is any additional support available such as tutoring, learning centers, mentoring, or special help.

What if the School Still Doesn’t Cooperate?

Many parents will give up. It’s so important for you to not give up. I know that this is easier said than done. Trust me, there were many days that I wanted to throw in the towel and give up. Many parents trust the school’s answer is the final answer and they don’t know that they have the right to continue to ask for an evaluation. You still have options available to you if the school refuses to evaluate your child. You should ask what the procedural safeguards are based on the denial. This will likely lead to mediation or a due process hearing. I recommend reaching out to your state’s Department of Education special education office. They can help walk you through the process and give you referrals of education advocates and attorneys if you need additional assistance. Many state disability offices can aid free of charge and help you prepare to continue to advocate for your child’s best interest.

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  1. Bonnie Dill says:

    I’m sending you this because my daughter is struggling, and so is her son. He was diagnosed with ADHD on spectrum. The school has a 504 plan and will not agree to do an IEP because he is not struggling academically. His issue is knee jerk reactions to things that he can’t control. His disability is aggression and anger. He’s not capable of thinking through situations. We’ve been trying to get him in special programs but they require an IEP. We are new in trying to figure it all out and every where we turn, there’s a road block. The dr that tested him said he doesn’t have “fluid reasoning”. He doesn’t make friends nor can he play team sports. We’re so frustrated. Any help you can provide would be so helpful. Thank you. 901-485-1867

    1. What state are you located in? My youngest had excellent grades as well and his last school didn’t want to give him an IEP because of his grades. Grades shouldn’t have any bearing on whether they get an IEP or 504 plan. My son’s behavior was impacting his learning and the learning of other kids. Let me know what state you are located in and I will research your state’s disability rights office to see if they can help you. Our sons sound very similar. I was finally able to get him an IEP with a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) by having the school complete a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA). They didn’t cooperate with me until I got my state’s disability office attorneys involved. Don’t keep fighting for an IEP. I will send the information when you send me the state. Thanks. Sending you hugs.

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