Skip to main content

I have a 16 year old student with a “label” of SLD. He has a history of behavior problems, mostly involving immature choices. He appears to have almost no self-control when it comes to making decisions. He’s a great kid, but his placement before the recent IEP meeting was not meeting his needs.

The IEP meeting was held, with a team consisting of student, parents, counselor, IEP case manager, other teachers and the EBD specialist. The principal was supposed to come but did not show up. The other co-principal signed the IEP the next day. The team decided to increase the student’s minutes in special education setting, including 3 periods with EBD specialist in his class to work on social skills/decision making, etc. We left him in his self-contained math and English classes and mainstream science, adding an extra science class with EBD teacher (who works closely with us). The student has not been successful this year; in fact, he was failing every class. The team determined that the schedule change would allow the student to recoup some credit.

I spoke with the principal a couple of days later and he agreed to and signed the schedule change form. Then, a week later, I received an email.out of the blue. The e-mail said that he had decided we were “way out of compliance”, that a “full IEP meeting” had not been held, and that the student was to be put back where he was before the IEP meeting. He stated it was a “rare principal’s directive”. He did not consult the parents, the students or anyone else involved. In fact, the new placement seemed to be working and the student was very positive.

Was this legal? I can’t imagine that it could be legal for an administrator to basically overturn the IEP unilaterally. The IEP did state that the student’s schedule would be changed, where he would be and why, and documented the number of minutes.

Where do I go from here? I told this student that I would do my best to rectify the situation. I’m at a loss, and am hoping that you can help. Thanks so much!


Dear Sharon:
Your question involves whether a principal may unilaterally change or retract an IEP after a duly constituted IEP team has made a decision to change a placement.

Under the requirements under IDEA, no school staff person, whether principal, special ed administrator, or superintendent, may unilaterally change an IEP outside of the IEP process. The IEP process of the IDEA requires that the parent be involved in the IEP meeting and that any changes in placement be made as the result of a decision of the IEP team. Further, if there is a recommended change, the parent must be provided with “prior written notice” of an appropriate decision of the IEP team. As referenced in the prior answer, under IDEA 2004, an IEP may be subsequently modified by mutual agreement of a member of the school staff AND the parent. However, it may not be unilaterally modified by a member of the school staff, regardless of their position, without the agreement of the parent. The amount of time spent in a special education class should be regarded as a placement change which is governed by the IEP requirements of the law. If this matter can not be resolved through informal mechanisms, it would be appropriate to consider requesting a due process hearing.

Back to Top