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What is prior written notice, and why would I want it?

There are certain times when the school must put in writing its decisions about your child's education and the reasons for those decisions. This written communication is called "prior written notice." You have the right to receive prior written notice, whenever the school wants to (or refuses to):

  • evaluate your child,
  • change your child's disability identification,
  • change your child's educational placement, or
  • change the way in which your child is provided with free appropriate public education (FAPE).

The school system is supposed to automatically provide you with prior written notice in any of these events. In practice, though, sometimes the school may tell you its decision over the telephone, in a meeting, or in a one-on-one conversation. If you want the notification in writing, you may ask the school system to provide it. And it is best that you put your request in writing.

For example, you may have asked for a change in your child's placement. The school system may tell you on the phone that it has denied your request. You may ask for prior written notice of this denial. The school must then put its decision in writing and explain the reasons for the decision. This information can be helpful if you pursue the placement change through a due process hearing. You will then have in writing the school system's reasons for denying the placement change.

Sample Letter

Date (include month, day, and year)

Name of School Principal
Name of School
Street Address
City, State, Zip Code

Dear (Principal's name),

At our meeting (or during our phone conversation) on (date), we discussed my child's (evaluation, eligibility, placement, IEP, services, etc.). I requested (explain what happened) and was (explain what you were denied or were told what the school intends to do) but I have never received any information about this decision in writing. In accordance with the IDEA regulations, I am requesting prior written notice regarding (be very specific about the issue/decision you want the school to address. Number the items if you have more than one issue).

According to the "Operating Standards for Ohio's Schools Serving Children with Disabilities," at O.A.C. §3301-51-05(H)(2), prior written notice must include the following:

(a) A description of the action proposed or refused by the school district;
(b) An explanation of why the school district proposes or refuses to take the action;
(c) A description of each evaluation procedure, assessment, record, or report the school district used as a basis for the proposed or refused action;
(d) A statement that I have protection under the procedural safeguards of this rule and, if this notice is not an initial referral for evaluation, the means by which a copy of a description of the procedural safeguards can be obtained;
(e) Sources for me to contact to obtain assistance in understanding the provisions of this rule;
(f) A description of other options that the IEP team considered and the factors that are relevant to the school district's proposal or refusal.

I look forward to receiving a detailed response to my request by (date). Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,
Your Name
Street Address
City, State, Zip Code
Daytime telephone number

cc: other members of the meeting

Return to list of Sample Letters

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