Denied an IEP because grades are goodHas your child been denied an IEP or 504? It is so common for schools to say that a child is not eligible for special education because the child has good grades or is too smart. The truth is, this is not a valid excuse for denying special education support.

Sec. 300.101 (c) (1) of the IDEA clearly states: “…FAPE is available to any individual child with a disability who needs special education and related services, even though the child has not failed or been retained in a course or grade, and is advancing from grade to grade.”

Unfortunately most parents do not know about the law, and so they accept it when the school says nothing can be done to support the child in school. So what do you do when they school feeds you this line?

1. Ask the school to put it in writing.

A common tactic for getting support when the school initially says no is to ask for it in writing.

According to section 300.503 (a) of the IDEA, they must provide written notice whenever the public agency “Refuses to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child or the provision of FAPE to the child.” In other words, they are suppose to give you a Prior Written Notice (PWN) that provides a data-driven explanation of why they are refusing to evaluate for services.

If they put it in writing, and it goes against the law, they can get in a whole heap of trouble. Often they will give in rather than put it in writing. If they still deny that your child needs to be evaluated for support, you can move to step #2. You can also report them to the state for failing to comply with IDEA by not giving you a PWN.

IEP Organizer: The Ultimate IEP Binder Tool Kit

2. Ask for a comprehensive educational evaluation

Write a letter to the case manager and CC the principal. Cite the law above to remind them that good grades do not disqualify a child from special education.

Request an educational evaluation for your child, citing the specific issues your child is having in school. Do not mention a diagnosis, but instead the challenges you see in school and with homework. For example, difficulty being organized or difficulty staying focused. Cite section 300.502 of IDEA which explains your rights for requesting an evaluation.

There are several special education letter templates in the special education resources section of this site to help you with the right formatting for this letter.

Child Denied an IEP Because Grades Are Good3. What if the school says no to the evaluation?

By law, the school is required to evaluate if a parent or school staff member requests an evaluation. If the school says no, once again, write a letter citing the law (Section 300.502 of IDEA) and letting them know they are required to evaluate.

If they say yes, Wrightslaw has some good suggestions in this scenario. Most specifically, be wary of an inadequate evaluation by the school. For example, if the teacher does a ‘screening’ and deems a full evaluation not necessary, this is not following the law. In addition, if a full evaluation is done, be prepared for the evaluation to be biased in favor of the school’s position. In that case, you may want to seek out a private evaluation to help make your case for the child needing support.

4. Don’t give up.

The schools are very good at knowing what to say to make parents stop trying. Just remember to follow the rule of the law and keep emotions out of it. Present the facts, state the requirements by law, and put everything in writing. When the school says no, remember the 3 questions advocates ask to get them to change their position. If need be, hire a special ed advocate to help you get your child the right support.

Bonnie Landau
Bonnie Landau
Bonnie Landau is a licensed professional clinical counselor and educational consultant in Ventura County, California. Her goal is to help parents of neurodivergent individuals find strategies and solutions to help their children succeed in school and in life. Bonnie is also the author of Special Ed Mom Survival Guide: How to Prevail in the Special Education Process and Find Life-long Strategies for You and Your Child.