Education Topic: Understanding Stay-put and What it Means
for Your Child
21 October 2003
Stay Put Provision:
- During the pendency
of any proceeding conducted pursuant to the Act, unless the state or
local educational agency and the parents otherwise agree, a student
with a disability shall remain in his or her then-current educational
placement. (IDEA stay put provision as codified in 20 U.S.C.
- The objective
of stay put is to maintain stability and continuity for the student.
WARNING FOR PARENTS
- In settlement
negotiations involving NPS or private school placements, school districts
often push for a waiver of stay put. Parents should be wary of this
and should not sign any agreement that waives stay put.
- Because stay put
is interpreted as the last agreed upon placement, a placement that is
operational because of a settlement agreement will operate as stay put
in later disputes. For example, if you settle a case with the district
and receive placement at an NPS for school year 1, and at the end of
year 1, you have a dispute about placement, stay put for year 2 (until
the dispute is resolved) would be the NPS.
- However, if you
sign an agreement that waives stay put, this will not be the case. Instead,
you will be back to square one and back in the school that you removed
your child from in the first place.
Stay Put means:
- The district must
leave the student in her current educational placement and the students
current IEP must be fully implemented (including related services).
- This applies from
the time that the dispute arises (from the time that you request
a hearing) until the dispute is resolved (all hearings and proceedings
are completed or settled).
- Essentially, the
school district is obligated to maintain the status quo. The
current educational placement usually means the most recent
agreed upon placement. This can be the placement in an IEP, in a mediation
agreement, in a settlement agreement or in a Due Process hearing ordering
either placement or reimbursement.
- The school district
cannot unilaterally decide to change placement. Under the I.D.E.A.,
parents must be a part of any team / group that makes a placement decision
about their child.
- In order to maintain
stay put, the school district should provide a continuation of services,
without a change in placement. Homebound instruction or in-home services
can therefore result in the home environment being stay put.
- Change in personnel
or service providers administering services does not necessarily violate
stay put, so long as the services are still comparable.
- Likewise, stay
put is not always location specific. If the setting of the educational
placement can be substantially duplicated in another setting,
then this would not violate stay put. For example, if the student must
be relocated because the school closed or the classroom ceased to exist,
this is allowable if the educational placement is duplicated in the
- A particular ESY
placement does not necessarily carry over as stay put for the regular
school year. Instead, the district must continue the placement from
the previous school year or the last agreed upon IEP. For example, if
the parents agree to a SDC for the following school year, and ESY is
to be home based instruction, stay put would be the SDC.
- If the dispute
is over the initial public school placement (e.g. if the parents move
the student from private school to public school), then there is technically
no current placement to serve as stay put. The school district must
place the student, with the parents permission, in the public school.
- If a district
removes a student from the educational setting in violation of stay
put, compensatory education may be an appropriate remedy.
- It may be that
the then current educational placement is inappropriate for the student.
If all parties agree that the placement is not appropriate, they may
agree to an interim placement while the dispute is pending. Remember
that the stay put provision allows for the agency and parents to otherwise
agree on placement.
- The Education
for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) included a provision that when
there was a dispute between the parents and the school district regarding
the placement of a child with a disability, the child was to stay in
the current educational placement until the dispute was resolved. The
intent behind stay-put was to ensure that disabled children did not
have to wait outside of the educational setting during pendency of a
- Issues most commonly
arise related to stay put in two situations.
- First, what
happens if the dispute arises at a time when the child is transitioning,
for example from preschool to kindergarten or elementary to middle
school? This makes it difficult to define the then current
educational placement. Suppose, for example, if a childs
most recent agreed upon IEP placed him or her in a kindergarten
half day SDC, and at the end of kindergarten the parents disagree
with the districts offer for the 1st grade year. Does this
mean that stay put is in the kindergarten half-day class for the
now 1st grade student?
- Times of transition present difficult issues because the next
grade may not have an identical educational placement to serve as
stay put. Some Hearing Office decisions have held, for example,
that a 5-year-olds stay put placement was his preschool program
during the pendency of the proceedings, even though the student
would otherwise be transitioning into kindergarten. However, while
stay put is setting specific, it may not be location specific. This
means that the student may proceed to the corresponding classroom
setting at the next grade level.
- Second, are
dangerous behavioral problems an exception to stay put? This situation
arises when the district argues that maintaining the student in
the then current educational placement would be dangerous to the
student or others. Remember that the school district is allowed
to use normal disciplinary procedures, as long as they comport with
the IDEA. However, when the district suspends the student for more
than 10 days, this would be considered a change in placement. Therefore,
if the district were obligated to provide stay put, this obligation
would assumedly be breached if the district moved the child or suspended
him or her for 11 days or more.
- Case law has held that the school district cannot unilaterally
change the placement of the child for conduct arising out of the
childs disability. See Honig v. Doe. The school district can
suspend the child for up to 10 days, but any change beyond that
requires parent agreement or a court order. However, illegal drugs
and weapon offenses allow for a 45-day alternative placement.
Carolina D. Watts,
free to respond to this article or post questions on our message board.