Toolbox Tuesday!!

Of course it’s important to keep parents informed of what’s going on at school with their child. But that does not mean that every minor incident needs to be reported formally through a “prior written notice.” 

The PWN form is familiar to many educational diagnosticians and other special ed types who fill them out. It’s a long and complicated form, reflecting the long and complicated federal regulation that requires it.  In a PWN you not only have to inform the parent of a decision, but you also have to inform the parent of all the options you considered; why you rejected the other options; and all the data that supports your decision. 

When I taught special education law at St. Edward’s University I wanted to give the students a practical way to understand how PWN works.  I pointed out that all of them had one thing in common: they had chosen to enroll at St. Ed’s.  So I asked them to send a PWN to the college or university that finished second, the one they thought about but rejected.  Here’s what one of them might look like:


THE DECISION: This notice is provided to THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN to inform you that JANE DOE will not be enrolling in your school for the 2020-21 school year. 

WHY:  UT is too big for me.  I want smaller classes and more attention from professors.  I got some scholarship money to help with the cost of a private school. 

REPORTS THAT INFORMED MY DECISION: I’ve visited UT, watched the Longhorn channel for various sporting events, read about the history of the place and the current controversy over the school song.  I don’t want any of that. 

OTHER OPTIONS AND WHY THEY WERE REJECTED:  I thought about Texas Tech, but I oppose the NRA and the whole “guns up” thing.  I thought about Baylor….for a few seconds.   I thought about Texas A&M…well….no, I didn’t.  I just thought I ought to say that I did.

OTHER FACTORS: I don’t look good in burnt orange.  I can’t stand Matthew McConaughey.  On top of that, going to a Catholic school will make my mother angry.  I find that very satisfying

You get the idea.  We bring this up today because of a case in California where the parent evidently believed that they were entitled to a PWN regarding any disciplinary action, even minor ones.  Nope.  The court noted that “The ALJ correctly found…that the IDEA does not prohibit disciplining a student with disabilities according to a general education process that does not require prior written notice.”

The parent had asked for two disciplinary referrals to be removed from the student’s file.   One referral was for not completing a test, and the other was for telling a group of kindergarten students to stop looking at him.  The district was not seeking a change of placement based on these minor incidents, and thus, PWN was not required.  The case is Bellflower USD v. Jiminez, decided by the federal court for the Central District of California on February 17, 2021. We found it on Special Ed Connection at 78 IDELR 106.


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Tomorrow: child abuse reports and retaliation claims…