It is probably not high on your list of New Year’s Resolution priorities, but special education staff at Ohio public schools should add this one: Send even more prior written notice forms.
For over a year, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) had been floating the idea of changing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requirements regarding prior written notice (PWN) when parents agree with the Individualized Education Program (IEP) developed during an annual review meeting and the IEP involves a change in placement. State regulations in effect over the past several years did not require formal PWN on the PR-01 form in this circumstance. Rather, the IEP document itself served as PWN. On December 20, 2013 ODE announced an immediate change requiring PWN on the PR-01 form to be sent for all IEPs that involve a change of placement (including those that have parental consent).
Presumably the thinking behind the prior interpretation was that there is no need to send a notice to a parent informing her that the IEP she just agreed to is going to be implemented. It appears that the change in interpretation is to align with federal regulations that require PWN whenever a change in placement is proposed. There is an ongoing review of Ohio’s IDEA regulations, and once finalized the new regulations will incorporate this change. However, ODE has been clear that it will immediately be enforcing the change. Whether slight changes in IEP services constitute a change of placement is not always clear. Given this new requirement, it is best to err on the side of caution by sending too many PR-01 instead of too few.
ERF encourages school districts to take steps to minimize potential misunderstandings regarding PWN. The PR-01 form can be intimidating, and some parents mistakenly think it means a district is attempting to harass or provoke them. Some of the potential fallout of the decision to require even more PR-01 can be avoided by discussing PWN, the PR-01 form, and when they are required with parents prior to needing to use them in relation to an IEP. For example, a district could make it a practice to show a blank PR-01 form to a parent at the time a child is initially identified and to explain the purpose and requirements for the use of the form.
We have often said that PWN cannot be sent too often. With this new interpretation ODE has brought new meaning to that advice. Please contact a member of ERF’s Special Education Team with questions about this new requirement.