What do I need to know about answering NOREPs?
The Notice of Recommended Educational Placement, or NOREP, (also called a Prior Written Notice in some states) is one of the most misunderstood documents in special education. For many parents, the NOREP is a document they routinely sign at IEP meetings, without any explanation as to its purpose or effect. So what is it that you need to know about the NOREP?
Your child’s school district or charter school is required to provide notice whenever it proposes or refuses to change the special education identification, placement, or provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for your child. The NOREP is the form most schools use to provide that notice.
There are timelines associated with NOREPs, but they may not work like you believe. In Pennsylvania, you have 10 calendar days to return a NOREP either approving or disapproving the proposed action. This “10 day rule” is not from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) statute or its regulations, but is generally treated as a rule based on Pennsylvania Department of Education guidance. It is important to note that states differ on this. For example, in Delaware, there are 10 school days.
In Pennsylvania, the 10 day rule works as follows:
- If you approve the action within 10 calendar days, the action goes into effect.
- If you do not answer within 10 calendar days, the school can go ahead with most actions as if you approved it (however, your consent is required for the initial provision of special education services or for an evaluation/reevaluation).
- If you disapprove the action within 10 calendar days it may or may not go into effect depending on what else you do in that time period.
- If you disapprove (by checking the box on the NOREP), hand the NOREP in, and request mediation or due process from the Office for Dispute Resolution (“ODR”) within the 10 calendar days, the action will not go into effect until after your mediation or due process is resolved. This is called “stay put” because your child will stay in the last agreed upon program/placement until the dispute is resolved. If the dispute is resolved in your favor, the action will not go into effect.
- If you disapprove (by checking the box on the NOREP), hand in the NOREP, and then take no other action, the action can go into effect because you did not request mediation or due process from ODR. You can still request mediation or due process later, but you will not have the right to keep your child in the last agreed upon placement (the stay put).
- If you disapprove (by checking the box on the NOREP), hand in the NOREP, 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 ODR. Even though the school was on notice of your intention, it is your responsibility to file the request and the school will not file it for you.
What if you want to approve the program, but note some concerns? Do so! Parents should feel free to use their response on the NOREP to document anything they feel is necessary to explain their response.
Finally, all parents should keep a copy of every signed NOREP for their records.
By Jacqueline C. Lembeck, Esq., McAndrews Law Offices, P.C.