Are Parents Required to Sign the IEP?

May 14, 2021

teacher sitting at table with parents and child

The rules surrounding signing an IEP can be confusing. Although a signature is required to begin implementation of the initial IEP, the rules are different for all subsequent agreements. Did you know that refusing to sign these later IEPs does not terminate or negate the agreement; it merely delays its implementation for 15 days. Parents/guardians need to be aware of these conditions and their rights.

Federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA), does not require that parents/guardians sign the IEP. The one exception is the initial IEP for which services cannot be implemented until parents/guardians do sign.

When parents/guardians sign any later IEPs, they are waiving their right to wait fifteen days for the implementation of the IEP.

I agree with my IEP and want changes implemented immediately

For example, if parents agree with all aspects of the IEP and it calls for a change of placement or services, parents/caregivers may choose to not wait 15 days for the change to take effect. By signing the IEP at the meeting, those changes can be implemented immediately.

I disagree with all or part of the IEP

There is often confusion about what happens if parents/guardians do not sign the IEP because they disagree with all or part of the IEP document. For that refusal to have effect, parents/guardians identify their concerns in writing to the child study team and request an additional IEP meeting to resolve any issues. Otherwise, the changes proposed in the IEP will go into effect after 15 days. If parents/guardians simply refuse to sign the IEP because they do not agree with it, the proposed IEP will go into effect after 15 days have elapsed.

This may come as a shock to many families who think that they must give approval in order for services to be implemented on a year-to-year basis. This is a particularly important concept when discussing behavior intervention plans that propose the use of aversives to address challenging behaviors. If parents/guardians do not agree with this proposed change and do not let their disagreement known in writing to the child study team, the proposed behavior intervention plan as part of the IEP will automatically go into effect after 15 days.

Document any concerns in writing

Initially, the only way to prevent the proposed changes to go into effect is for parents/guardians to document concerns in writing and request an additional IEP meeting to resolve issues that they may have. Parents/guardians may also file for mediation or due process. To request mediation or a due process hearing, parents must put their request in writing and send it to the New Jersey Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and their local school district. A mediation/due process hearing request form can be found at this website.

Parents/guardians can email a copy, mail a hard copy, or fax a copy to the appropriate offices. If sending the request by email, parents/guardians must save their completed petitions as Adobe PDF documents and submit them as an attachment to an email sent to: That email address is used exclusively for the submission of requests and cannot be used to communicate with the parties or their representatives.

While the disagreement is being resolved, your child’s current placement and services will remain the same. This is called “stay put.”

Document participation at the IEP meeting

In many cases, to avoid confusion between participation in the meeting and agreement to the proposed IEP, a sign in sheet may be distributed at the IEP meeting. Parents/guardians should feel free to sign this so that they can document their participation in the IEP meeting regardless of whether or not they agree with the proposed IEP.

Carefully review the IEP

According to the New Jersey Administrative Code 6A:14-3.7(l), “Either a copy of the IEP or written notes setting forth agreements with respect to the IEP…shall be provided to the parents at the conclusion of the meeting.” It is recommended that parents/guardians take this copy of the IEP home and review it to be sure that they are in agreement with the proposed changes included in the IEP.

Experience Our Power of Connection

For additional information and resources on the IEP process or school entitlement, call our 800.4.AUTISM Helpline, email, or use the Live Chat feature at the bottom of your screen.

Originally posted 12/10/2015
Updated 5/14/2021