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What is Prior Written Notice?

Prior written notice (PWN) is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) when changes are made to your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). It ensures that you are informed and involved in any changes to your child’s IEP before they happen. Prior written notice is important because it helps keep you informed of any changes and it helps keep you actively involved in your child’s IEP. It will be kept in your child’s file and will follow them if they change schools in the future.

The IDEA requires prior written notice in the following four situations: 

  1. It’s required when the school proposes to make a change in the identification, evaluation or educational placement of a child. 
  2. It’s required when the school refuses to make a change in the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of a child.
  3. It’s required when the school proposes to make a change to how a child is being provided a Free and Appropriate Public Education or FAPE. 
  4. It’s required when the school refused to make a change in how the child is being provided a FAPE.

What is Required to be in a Prior Written Notice?

The Prior Written Notice must include the following 7 things:

  1. A description of the action proposed or refused by the school
  2. An explanation of why the school proposes or refuses to take the action
  3. A description of each evaluation procedure, assessment, record, or report used to make their decision
  4. A statement that parents of a child with a disability have protections under the procedural safeguard and how parents can get a copy
  5. A list of sources for parents to get help understanding these provisions or procedural safeguards
  6. A description of other options considered by the IEP team and the reasons why they were rejected
  7. A description of other any other factors that are relevant to the school’s proposal or refusal

Prior written notice isn’t required for state level assessments, general screenings, observations conducted for instructional reasons, evaluation of annual goals progress, changes to course schedules or changes to intervention strategies.

When will I Receive Prior Written Notice?

You should expect to receive prior written notice after a new or annual IEP meeting, after your child’s school makes an evaluation plan for your child, or when you make requests for changes on your child’s identification, evaluation, or IEP including educational placement. It’s important to remember that verbal conversations or in person conversations do not count as prior written notice.

The law requires the school to provide you prior written notice in a reasonable time before the school proposes or takes an action related to the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or provision of FAPE to a child with a disability. The notice is required to be written in your native language. If your native language isn’t a written language, the school is required to translate the notice orally or by other means that you understand. I recommend requesting prior written notice in writing any time the school suggests a change in your child’s IEP. I also recommend requesting a prior written notice form any time the school tells you no.

What if I don’t Agree with the Proposed Changes?

Most states include a parental consent or objection form with their prior written notice. If you don’t agree with what the school is proposing, you can challenge and appeal the proposed changes. You should challenge or appeal the proposed changes in writing. Make a copy for your IEP binder and for your records and return the original signed copy to the person who sent it to you. If you don’t challenge or appeal the decisions explained in the prior written notice, the proposed changes will be implemented on the date given on the notice. If you disagree with the proposed changes, you can appeal the decision.

You can also request an independent educational evaluation or IEE if you disagree with the school’s decision. It’s important to note that your school isn’t required to accept the IEE findings. If you request mediation or a due process hearing, it’s important to request it in writing. You also have a right to send a complaint to your state’s department of education. If you believe that your child was discriminated against, you can also file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education. No changes should be made until the disagreement is settled and your child should “stay put” in their current placement until you have resolution. No changes can be made until the dispute is resolved.

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