Friday, October 14, 2016

Procedural Safeguards - The Series Part V #PWN

This is the fifth installment in a multi-part series on procedural safeguards under the federal special education law, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. I work a lot in this area, so it is near and dear to my heart. Despite the importance of procedural safeguards. however, many issues in this area are misunderstood. I hope that all of the different types of special education stakeholders who read this blog find the information in this series helpful. Be sure to tell me what you think about the series.

Prior Written Notice

A school district must provide prior written notice to the parents whenever it proposes to, or refuses to, initiate or change the: identification, evaluation, placement, or FAPEIDEASection 615(b)(3). See 34 CFR Section 300.503(a). The notice must contain the following: a description of the action; an explanation of why the district proposes or refuses the action; a description of each evaluation procedure, assessment, record or report relied upon; a statement that the parents have protections under the procedural safeguards; sources for the parents to contact to obtain assistance; a description of other options considered and why they were rejected; and a description of the factors that are relevant to the district’s proposal or refusal. IDEA Section 615(c)(1). See 34 CFR Section 300.503(b). 

“Prior” written notice is an unfortunate choice of words. This does not mean that the notice must be given before the decision is made. Indeed, OSEP has pointed out that the notice must be given a reasonable amount of time before the school district implements the proposal, or refusal, described in the notice. The proposal triggers an obligation to convene an IEP team meeting, but providing prior written notice before the meeting could suggest that the district’s action was made without parent input and participation. 71 Fed. Register No. 156 at page 46690 (August 14, 2006).

OSEP has published a model form for prior written notice consistent with current statutory and regulatory requirements. The model form is available on their website  


  1. I think that these written notices should be a proposal for a meeting in which there could be a potential change in the students learning environment. This would then prompt a meeting where the IEP team comes together to discuss.

  2. As stated above, providing prior written notice before the actual meeting could definitely suggest a decision has been made without conferring with the student's parents. I think an easy way to avoid this is to document your conversations. If they're verbal, simply make a note of what you discussed with the parents. All other communication should be relatively easy to retrieve.

  3. The challenge with PWN definitely exists around the predetermination possibilities. I think it's important to remember to adjust the PWN as changes are made during the decision process (IEP meeting), thus avoiding any predetermining language.