Should You Sign? How to Reply to the NOREP or PWN After Receiving the IEP

When a school introduces a new IEP, they will also issue a Notice of Recommended Educational Placement or NOREP.  Some states call this document the Prior Written Notice or PWN. The school district must issue this document whenever it proposes or refuses to change the special education identification, placement, or provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for your child. This includes services or any change to services. This document can be very intimidating and leaves many parents wondering, “Should I sign the NOREP/PWN?”

What is the NOREP or PWN?

The NOREP/PWN always includes the type of action proposed.  This includes any type of action including, but not limited to, beginning services, determining eligibility for services, request for a due process hearing, discontinuing services, response to a request for an independent evaluation, and changing identification, evaluation, educational placement, or provision of FAPE.  After stating the action, the school district needs to provide a brief description of the action proposed or declined. Finally, the NOREP/PWN must include the reasons for taking the action.  It is important to remember that if you make a proposal to take an action (i.e. additional services) and the school district refuses, that proposal and reason for refusal should be in the NOREP/PWN. Documenting the school’s refusal is useful if it is later determined that those services were appropriate for your child.

How Many Days to Respond to the NOREP or PWN?

Timelines and some other requirements for signing the NOREP/PWN are set by the individual state Departments of Education. The federal regulations under IDEA do not speak towards timelines and decided to leave this up to the states. It is important to know your state’s regulations as they vary greatly from state to state. Here in Pennsylvania, we have 10 calendar days to reply.  If no reply is provided within that time frame, the school may implement the proposed action without your consent.  This applies to all IEP’s after the initial provision of special education services or for an evaluation/reevaluation).  

How to Reply to the NOREP or PWN – Full Acceptance or Rejection

If you fully accept everything in the IEP, you are advising the school there is no disagreement.  This includes the newly proposed changes and any language that is transitioning from the previous year.  Remember, even if you are fully accepting the program and you sign the document, you may mark up the NOREP/PWN as much as you need.  This is a great way to document any of your comments or concerns. Additionally, if there is full acceptance, the acceptance can be revoked at any time if there is a future concern.  Rather than a full revocation, a partial rejection may be more appropriate.  This type of revocation is better suited for allowing your child to continue to receive the services you are not in disagreement about (see below).

If you reject the IEP, return the signed NOREP/PWN marked with your refusal, and request a mediation or due process hearing within 10 days, the action will not go into effect until the hearing or mediation is resolved. Clearly, if you win at the hearing, the action will not go into effect.

How to Reply to the NOREP or PWN – Improper Rejection

If you disapprove of the changes in the newly proposed IEP, sign and mark that you are rejecting the changes, turn the NOREP/PWN into the school yet do not request a mediation or due process hearing, the action (depending on your state) can usually still go into effect. Similarly, if you reject the newly proposed IEP, state the same on the document, turn the NOREP/PWN into the school and then tell the school you are going to file for due process, the action can go into effect because you did not send your due process request to the Office of Dispute Resolution. The responsibility to file the request is on the parent disapproving the IEP.

If you agree with part of the proposed program, you can make a partial rejection. A partial rejection allows for the district to implement its proposed program, yet gives you the ability to reject part of the program.  Essentially, you are stating that you reject the program to the extent your child needs services beyond those proposed to make progress with their educational performance. Through a letter or an email, communicating this partial rejection informs the school district that there is a disagreement, but the school still needs to provide services.

If you are dealing with the initial IEP, you may partially consent and your child can still receive services.  If a school responds by asserting that you must give full acceptance to begin receiving services, point to the law. Under IDEA assert that a school district, “may not use a parent’s refusal to consent to one service or activity…. To deny the parent or child any other service, benefit, or activity….”.  34 CFR § 300.300(d)(3)  After reviewing the proposed initial IEP, you can put in writing as an addendum to the IEP, or anywhere on the IEP, what parts you agree with and what parts you do not.

Regardless of the extent to which you and the district disagree on what is appropriate for your child, it is imperative to know the laws. There can be significant consequences to signing or not signing the NOREP/PWN. If a conversation with the school brings about a great deal of conflict, it can be helpful to bring in the support of an advocate to guide you through the process and help ease any tension.