Stay Put Rights is a special education term that describes one of the fundamental procedural protections available to students with disabilities under the IDEA and Massachusetts law. Essentially, when a student’s parents and the school district disagree about a student’s services or placement, the student is entitled to remain in the last educational program accepted by the parents while dispute resolution proceedings unfold or until another program is accepted by the parents. Under Massachusetts law, “stay put” protections are extended to eligible students whenever the parents express disagreement with the District’s proposal, even if formal due process proceedings are not initiated.
If a District refuses to provide “stay put” services, the student may be entitled to compensatory relief to make up for the missed services. The parents may also be entitled to reimbursement of any expenses they incur in securing substitute special education services. Usually, the only way to obtain compensatory relief is by filing for a due process hearing.
Sometime, the precise terms of the previously accepted IEP cannot be implemented for some reason, such as when a student moves to a different school. In these cases, the District must identify and provide a “comparable” program. A “comparable” special education program is one which matches as closely as possible the setting, the type and level of service delivery, the degree of mainstream contact, the methodology and teaching approach, the staff-student ratio, the instructional and therapeutic expertise, and the duration of the instruction the student received in the last accepted placement. Determining what constitutes a “comparable” stay put placement can be difficult and often depends on whether the proposed change would significantly depart from the parameters of the previously accepted services, whether it would have a substantial and detrimental effect on the Student’s learning, or whether it would result in a more restrictive educational program.
If you are involved in a dispute concerning “stay put” rights, we can help. We understand the steps that are necessary to get your child the free appropriate public education he or she is legally entitled to receive.