Office for Exceptional Children Makes Prior Written Notice Mandatory for All IEPs

On December 21, 2013, the Office for Exceptional Children (OEC) issued Memorandum 2013-1 which outlines changes to Ohio Administrative Code Section 3301-51-05(H)(4)(c). Pursuant to this Memorandum, and changes to the Operating Standards for Ohio Educational Agencies Serving Students with Disabilities, an IEP no longer serves as prior written notice - even if parents sign the document indicating their agreement. This is an immediate change and districts must immediately begin issuing prior written notice after all IEP meetings where changes are made to the student's IEP. This includes annual review meetings where a new IEP is developed and any meetings held during the term of the IEP where changes are made to the document. OEC will immediately begin enforcing compliance with this new requirement both in complaint investigations and monitoring activities. 

What should districts do now? 

  • Review all Board policies and internal procedures and make any changes necessary to reflect the new prior written notice requirement.
  • Provide notice to all special education staff members including supervisors, intervention specialists, school psychologists and related service providers about the change to the prior written notice requirement.
  • Provide notice to all building administrators regarding the change to the prior written notice requirements and information on how this will impact special education staff members.
  • Decide which staff members will be responsible for drafting and issuing prior written notice to parents following "routine" IEP meetings (i.e., meetings where there is no disagreement in any area and the PR-01 is only to notify parents of the change to the child's free appropriate public education).
  • Decide which staff members will be responsible for drafting and issuing prior written notice to parents following "non-routine" IEP meetings (i.e., meetings where there is disagreement on one or more topics, even if parents ultimately sign the IEP indicating agreement).
  • Develop "standard" language for prior written notices to be issued after "routine" IEP meetings.
  • Provide training to all staff members who will be responsible for drafting and issuing prior written notice to parents following IEP meetings.

What are key elements for training? 

  • Emphasize the importance of timely issuance of prior written notice - failure to issue prior written notice is a serious procedural error and will lead to adverse consequences for the district.
  • Teach staff members to recognize the difference between "routine" and "non-routine" IEP meetings and what this means with respect to the content of the prior written notice.
  • For "routine" meetings, reassure staff members that the prior written notice is not onerous to write and, in many cases, the district's "standard" language can be utilized.
  • Train staff members to modify "standard" language when necessary to accurately reflect the discussions at the IEP meeting and changes to the IEP.
  • Remind staff members that there should not be any blanks or N/A notations on the PR-01 form - all questions must be answered.
  • Remind staff members to re-read the prior written notice to ensure that they have answered the question asked by the prior written notice form.

Other tips for compliance... 

  • Designate individuals to review all prior written notices drafted by intervention specialists and related service providers to ensure compliance until staff members have had an opportunity to adjust to the new requirements.
  • After discontinuing the mandatory review, continue spot checking prior written notices to find and correct any errors.
  • Advise staff members of available resources if they have questions about whether a prior written notice is required or the content of the notice.

If you have specific questions regarding the content of a prior written notice or would like to schedule training for staff members, please contact Christina Peer or any other member of our Education Law Group.