When used correctly, stay-put provides a powerful and important protection for families who have children with disabilities. In short, stay-put prevents unilateral action by a school district when parents object to a change in their child’s educational program or placement.

The protection ensures consistency in a student’s program during a dispute – which is critical for many students with disabilities.

For example: if a student is placed at a private special education school pursuant to an IEP, and a school district proposes to transition the student back to the local public school, the parent can reject the proposal, and the school district will need to continue to fund the private school placement while the dispute is ongoing.

Below are three things to know about stay-put protections:

1) Authority: In Massachusetts, the right to stay-put can be found at 603 CMR 28.08 (7), “during the pendency of any dispute regarding placement or services, the eligible student shall remain in his or her then current education program and placement unless the parents and the school district agree otherwise.”

Under the IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1415(j), “during the pendency of any proceedings conducted pursuant to this section, unless the State or local educational agency and the parents otherwise agree, the child shall remain in the then-current educational placement of the child…”

2) Application: Parents can assert their stay-put right when a school district proposes to change a student’s placement, program (including extended school year services), or when a district finds that a student is no longer eligible for special education services.

In Leominster Public Schools – BSEA # 12-7450, the hearing officer found that parents properly invoked their right to stay-put when a school district proposed to change a student’s summer program from a 165-hour program to a 108-hour program.

3) Action Items: If a district is proposing something different than the program a student is currently receiving, the student’s parents can reject the proposed IEP in full or in part. Parents should also write a letter accompanying the IEP signature pages, explaining that they want the services or placement to remain the same, and are asserting their right to stay-put.

A district cannot change a student’s educational program or placement unless either: 1) the parents agree to the change; or 2) either the parents or the district files for a hearing at the BSEA, and a hearing officer orders a change. Note that in Massachusetts, parents can invoke their right to stay-put without filing for hearing, which might not be the case in other states.

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