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Special Education Tip-of-the-Day: Prior Written Notice


by Amanda Glass, Equal Justice Works Fellow

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), prior written notice, or PWN, must be provided to students with disabilities and their parents before a school makes a change or refuses to make a change to a child’s special education. Specifically, the IDEA states that a school must provide parents with PWN when it proposes or refuses “to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, educational placement of the child, or the provision of a FAPE to the child.”

Here are a few examples of when a school must provide PWN:

  • Before conducting an evaluation of your child;
  • You’ve requested that your child be evaluated and the school denies your request;
  • The school proposes or refuses a particular educational placement for your child, such as changing your child from a placement where she spends most of her time in a general education classroom with non-disabled students to a placement where she spends most of her time in a special education classroom with disabled students only, or vice versa;
  • The school proposes or refuses to change your child’s special education eligibility category, such as a change from Other Health Impairment (OHI) to autism, or vice versa;
  • The school wants to change or refuses to change aspects of the special education or related services that your child is receiving, such as reducing or increasing services.

PWN must be issued in a “timely manner” following the school’s decision regarding the issue, or “within a reasonable time” before the school proposes to take an action. There are no exact timelines in the law for what is considered “timely” or “reasonable.”

Each PWN must:

  • describe the action proposed/refused;
  • explain why the school proposes/refuses the action;
  • describe the information and data the school used to make this decision;
  • state that parents have protections under the procedural safeguards and information about how to get a copy of the procedural safeguards notice;
  • provide information on sources for parents to contact for help (which in Arizona should include ACDL and Raising Special Kids);
  • describe other options that the IEP Team considered and the reasons why those options were rejected; and
  • describe of any other information relevant to the proposed/refused action.

Students with disabilities and their parents may choose to receive PWN via email, if the school makes that option available.

Like the procedural safeguards notice, the PWN must be communicated to parents in a way that is understandable to them. Read more about these requirements in our previous blog post.

If your child’s school proposes or refuses an action, but does not provide you with PWN, ask the school to provide PWN. Find a sample letter requesting prior written notice on ACDL’s website.

To look at a sample PWN document, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

For more information about prior written notice, visit the Center for Parent Information and Resources.

Tomorrow’s Tip-of-the-Day: Access to Records (Part 1 of 2)

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