This time of year is known as IEP season, and time retention is considered. One important document during this time is the PWN. The name of this document is confusing as the definition of prior means before, and most people do not understand why they get it after the meeting. However, you get this document before a service is provided but after one is denied. One of the MOST effective and important advocacy tools we have is a prior written notice, yet many parents aren’t aware it exists or what to do with it if it’s provided.

To get straight to the point, parents are entitled to prior written notice anytime the school proposes a change or refuses a change for their child. (See Sec. 303.421 Prior written notice and procedural safeguards notice)

1 – A Description of the Action Proposed or Refused by the School

A short statement about what the school wants to do or is refusing to do.

2 – An Explanation of Why the School Proposes or Refuses to Take the Action

An explanation of why the action is being proposed or what necessitated it, or if it’s a refusal, why the action is being refused.

3 – A Description of Each Evaluation Procedure, Assessment, Record, or Report the School Used as a Basis for Their Decision

How the decision above was made by listing and describing the documentation that led to the refusal or proposed action.

4 – A Statement That the Parents of a Child with a Disability Have Protection Under the Procedural Safeguards and, How the Parents Can Obtain a Copy of Them

Acknowledgment that the parents have protection and give them instructions for obtaining a copy of the procedural safeguards.

5 – Sources for Parents to Contact to Obtain Assistance in Understanding These Provisions

Resources to ensure understanding of the provisions provided and someone the parents can contact to get assistance.

6 – A Description of Other Options That the IEP Team Considered and the Reasons Why Those Options Were Rejected

All other options were considered, and the reasons why none of those options were viable.

7 – A Description of Other Factors Relevant to the School’s Proposal or Refusal

Anything else relevant to the proposal or refusal should be included here so that there is a well-rounded picture of why the actions are being considered or not considered.

Now there are some subsets or additional provisions indicated in
(2) Native language.
This section has some subsections:

(1) The notice must be—

(i) Written in language understandable to the general public; and
(ii) Provided in the native language, as defined in §303.25, of the parent or other mode of communication used by the parent, unless it is not feasible.
(2) If the native language or another mode of communication of the parent is not a written language, the public agency or designated EIS provider must take steps to ensure that—

(i) The notice is translated orally or by other means to the parent in the parent’s native language or another mode of communication;
(ii) The parent understands the notice; and
(iii) There is written evidence that the requirements of this paragraph have been met.

So now that I have provided all the legalizes… I know you are wondering why this is important.
Let’s say, your child has been receiving reading interventions for a year or more. Some progress may have been made; however, they are still struggling. And as they continue to grow, the curriculum gets harder, independent thought of ideas are abstract, expectations are higher… and your child is still struggling to read at or close to grade level. Sound familiar?

Or maybe your child is doing their best to keep up in class. Still, they need frequent redirections, and teachers have to spend time repeating instructions 1:1, or in my Little’s case writing all the board work on a huge post-it. Or your child needs the teacher to get the work completed and turned in despite accommodations like visual instructions or checklists.

In both scenarios, you come to the team and request something specific. Maybe it’s a specialized curriculum, an increase in related service minutes, or a 1:1 or classroom aide. You bring the data to support the request (PS: whenever you ask for something at the IEP table, put it in writing and be ready to provide data to support your request.), and the team says something like, “we don’t do that here,” or even worse the dreaded “let’s wait and see.” Neither of these are sufficient answers to deny your request. Therefore, the school is legally obligated to provide you with prior written notice denying those requests and providing the reasoning (or the data) to support this denial.

This prior written notice is SO important that it’s typically on the first page of your procedural safeguard. I know it is in Florida. Do a quick google search of Parent Procedural Safeguards for your state details. This must be your first step if you haven’t read your procedural safeguards yet. This is what makes you an effective advocate for your child. This is a major key to both #policy & #process.
If you have never received a PWN or have no clue what one looks like. Here is an example of what the fillable Florida PWN may look like.

ITEMS TO REVIEW:
1. PRIOR must mean before an IEP meeting, right??
Nope. Prior means after a decision and before a change has been made.

2. How long does the school have to provide it?
IDEA law says that prior written notice must be given a “reasonable time” before the school will take action. There is no exact amount of time it should take the school to provide it. But, you usually get it whenever you receive your final IEP.

3. Do I have to ask for PWN?
In some states, PWN is provided with every change, every proposal, and every single denial. IDEA law states the school should provide it. However, in my experience, it is up to parents to request it most of the time.

4. How do I request PWN?
Always in writing. Your letter should state your requests, provide data or documentation or outline your disagreement to proposed changes.

For example: “We are requesting a highly qualified one-on-one paraprofessional for ___________ to access FAPE (free appropriate public education) based on lack of progress indicated in IEP goals and report cards in addition to recommendations by Dr. KnowsBest clinical psychologist and Mrs. UniqueStudentNeeds _________ Occupational Therapist.”

5. What happens when I request PWN?
Often your request is honored because the school cannot provide appropriate documentation to deny the request, like a written policy against it. Or we (Advocate & Parent) have developed a record that can help in future IEP meetings, Mediation, Due Process, or Court. Refer back to your procedural safeguards for dispute resolution options.

Overall, PWN is a documentation tool, and we all know that without proper documentation, our requests, disagreements, or concerns may have never happened. Everything needs to be documented (remember the 1st Rule of IEP club is… if it is not in writing, it didn’t happen). This is why. I always have the meeting notes read to ensure what is being documented correctly reflects what was said. You don’t need to request PWN during a meeting, either. You can always wait until after the meeting to write your requests or disagreement.

Ms. T

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