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IEP Issues - Placement Issues

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Letter Requesting IEP to Discuss Placement - click here.

Special Education Placement: A Guide for Parents and Advocates


A placement decision is made after the team develops an IEP. A placement is not just a physical location; it is a package of services. For example, a child’s placement may be a self-contained classroom for children with emotional disturbance. There may be three different locations in the district where this placement could occur. A change from one location to another would not usually be considered a change of placement if the IEP services remain the same.


The placement decision must be made by a group of people that includes someone with knowledge about the child and the meaning of evaluation results, and someone familiar with placement options. Parents must be included in this group.

The placement decision is based on test results, teacher recommendations, and the student's needs as dictated by the IEP. The placement must be one where all the IEP goals and objectives can be addressed.

Placement options include:

  • a regular classroom;
  • a regular classroom with modifications and/or supplemental aids and services;
  • a resource room for special education instruction with instruction in a regular classroom;
  • a classroom for children with disabilities located in a regular school;
  • day or residential special schools, where many or all students may have disabilities; and
  • a home, hospital, or institution based program


Congress has found that the education of children with disabilities can be more effective by having high expectations and ensuring access to the general curriculum to the maximum extent possible.

By law, children with disabilities must be educated in the least restrictive environment. A child must be educated in the regular classroom with supplemental aids and services unless he or she cannot be satisfactorily educated there. Supplemental aids and services may include adaptations to classroom materials, special materials or equipment (including assistive technology), or an individual instructional assistant.

When deciding a child's placement the school district must consider any potential harmful effects, as well as positive effects on the child. The district must also consider the quality and quantity of services the child needs. In addition, the educational impact on other students in the class must be considered. Thus, a regular classroom, may not be appropriate even with aids and services, if the child is greatly agitated by the noise and movement of a large group or is so disruptive that other students are unable to learn.

When a child is removed from a regular classroom, the school district must ensure that, whenever appropriate, the child will be with children who are in regular classes for nonacademic and extracurricular activities.

Unless the IEP requires another arrangement, children must be educated in the school they would attend if not disabled. If the IEP requires a different placement, the location of the placement must be as close as possible to the child's home.


Any change in placement must be based on the child's IEP. Placement decisions must be reviewed each time the IEP is significantly revised. Since IEPs must be reviewed annually, placement decisions also must be made at least annually. However, parents have the right to request a change in placement whenever they feel a placement is not working. The placement team, which includes the parents, meets to discuss and decide placement.


Prior to making a placement decision, school districts should give parents the opportunity to visit the proposed placement setting so parents can determine whether that setting would be appropriate for their child.

Once the placement decision has been made, you should still be able to visit the classroom. School districts may have policies about school visitation by parents and guests, designed to eliminate distractions to both students and staff. So long as the policies are reasonable and applied equally to all, they should be followed. Such policies may limit the amount of time of your visit, and the cumulative amount of visitation time per week or month. However, policies that do not allow you or your guests to take notes, or that limit your visitation time to a particularly small amount of time are probably not reasonable.


  • Parents have the right to sit on the placement team and participate in discussions and decisions regarding placement.
  • Parents have the right to give or withhold consent for the child's first placement in special education. If parents do not consent, however, the school district may use due process hearing procedures to override the parents' refusal to consent. School districts may choose to do this because of their legal obligation to provide all students with disabilities a free appropriate public education.
  • Parents have the right to receive prior written notice any time the district proposes a change in placement. Parents also have the right to written notice any time the district refuses to change the child's placement at the request of parents. See Notice Rules.
  • Parents may request an IEP meeting, mediation, write a letter of complaint, or request a due process hearing to resolve any disagreement about placement. See Resolving Disagreements.
Letter Requesting IEP to Discuss Placement

Everything between brackets should be customized. Be sure to edit content in order to reflect your child's specific situation. Be sure to send a copy to the principal/administrator of the program and keep a copy for yourself.  Other copies may be sent if you feel that it is necessary, however, sending only to the Special Ed Director is acceptable.  Jackie D. Igafo-Te'o


[Special Education Director's Name]
[City, State, Zip Code]

Dear [Special Education Director's Name]:

My child, [child’s name], is currently in [list program or grade] at  [school name]. I would like to meet with the IEP team to discuss [his/her] current placement situation and to look at how we can modify [his/her] current goals and objectives to better fit [his/her] educational needs.


[Edit this paragraph to reflect your specific situation: My child is regressing.  [He/she] is not benefiting from [his/her] current placement. The environment is not conducive to [his/her] learning style. The constant movement from room to room is causing both confusion and frustration for [him/her]. Classrooms with lower teacher-student ratios tend to have a more structured, stable environment. We feel that [he/she would improve academically if placed in _____ classroom/program. Etc.]

Please schedule an IEP meeting as soon as possible so that we can modify [his/her] IEP and discuss these issues. I would prefer being contacted with time options in advance so that the meeting can be scheduled at a mutually agreeable time and place. Before the meeting, please send me a copy of the school's IEPT forms and attachments that are relevant to this meeting.

I look forward to hearing from you within the next 5 school days.


[Parent/Guardian Name]
[City, State, Zip Code]
[Phone Number]

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