Common Mistakes Parents Make When It Comes To Special Education
Not Understanding the “NOREP”
A Notice of Recommended Educational Placement or “NOREP” formalizes a school district’s educational program offer for your eligible child. A NOREP is typically issued in conjunction with a proposed Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”), and serves as the “Prior Written Notice” that the law requires when a school district proposes to change a special education student’s program in some way. Common NOREP scenarios involve a school district adding or deleting supports in the IEP, revising goals or specially designed instruction, removing or graduating a student from special education, or otherwise making programmatic modifications.
For many parents, however, the receipt of a NOREP from their school district not only provides a source of consternation, but also much confusion. The latter is true especially as it pertains to understanding the parental rights that the surround the NOREP’s issuance, as well as the overall significance of the NOREP to their child’s program.
For example, although factual circumstances can certainly vary, many parents are surprised to learn that most of the time:
- It is OK to not respond to a NOREP at the IEP meeting itself – despite many school districts often pushing to have it done right then and there
- It is OK to use up to 10 calendar days from the receipt of a NOREP to review a proposed IEP before approving/disapproving it if a child has already had an IEP before (if it is the first IEP a child has ever been offered, express parent approval is required to even begin services, so the 10 calendar days is hardly relevant)
- It is OK to essentially ignore a NOREP given with a draft IEP – a new NOREP should be issued and dated at the time the final IEP is provided
- It is OK to indicate on a NOREP your agreement with some IEP revisions but not others in order to get the agreed upon supports going
Having said all that, it is extremely important for parents to understand that if they do disagree with any proposed revisions to a child’s existing special education program (i.e. not the child’s initial IEP), that some very specific procedures involving the NOREP must be followed. The most critical of these involves the risk of losing “pendency”.
Pendency essentially refers to maintaining the status quo while a dispute with a school district takes place. Put more simply, if parents disagree with a proposed program change and invoke pendency via the NOREP, the school district is not permitted to make whatever programmatic revision they had proposed until the dispute has runs its course. The trick, however, is knowing how to successfully initiate pendency.
Specifically, to properly invoke pendency, parents must not only indicate their disapproval of the program revision within 10 calendar days of their receipt of the NOREP, but they must also request either mediation or due process. This step can be very confusing, as contrary to appearances on the NOREP form itself, it is not enough to simply disapprove and check “Mediation” or “Due Process” on the NOREP to initiate pendency – parents must also fill out paperwork with the Office of Dispute Resolution (Pennsylvania Department of Education) to formalize their request. While this paperwork is not overly daunting, it is an easily overlooked – but required – step to invoke pendency.
To be clear, however, even if parents fail to properly initiate pendency – due to either failing to follow the proper procedures, or by exceeding the 10 calendar day deadline to do so – such does not mean that parents have lost their right to challenge their child’s program. Rather, a loss of pendency only means that the school district is permitted to make their programmatic change while the while dispute unfolds.
To this end, even indicating agreement on a NOREP “now”, does not preclude parents from later changing their minds and challenging that same IEP. However, parents are behooved to understand the ramifications of each NOREP they receive. Not only is the NOREP an important document procedurally for all of the reasons mentioned, but as recent laws pertaining to statutes of limitation also unfold, to some hearing officers the NOREP has taken on added significance in effectively curtailing parent and student rights.
Please contact Jacobson & John at 215-340-7500 or email us at info@TheEducationLawyers.com with any questions, about this or any other area of education law.