Prior Written Notice

Notice of change is a useful tool for families 

Many parents think that they need to sign the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) document, indicating agreement, before changes can be made to their child’s IEP but the process doesn’t work that way in Iowa. Instead, the Prior Written Notice (also referred to as PWN) is the documentation that is required to be provided to families after an IEP meeting where significant changes to the IEP are being proposed.

A Prior Written Notice is a form that can be one of a parent’s best tools in advocating for their child’s education. The Prior Written Notice is the IEP team’s explanation of a proposed or refused change related to the IEP. It is the school district and/or AEA’s legal position for a decision that has been made in writing.

Parents should be provided with this notice after an issue has been discussed at an IEP meeting, but before any changes go into effect. If parents disagree with the proposal, they could appeal that decision through one of the conflict resolution options described in the Procedural Safeguards Manual. If parents choose not to challenge the decision formally, the proposed changes will begin on the date given on the notice.

A good strategy when parents feel strongly about on an IEP related issue and disagree with the IEP team might be to ask for the Prior Written Notice of that decision. This could help the family to understand why the decision was made. It also sends a message to the school team that this issue is something that parents feel strongly about and lets the team know that the parent is familiar with their rights in the Special Education process. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a Prior Written Notice must include the:

  • options that were considered by the IEP team
  • factors and/or data considered in making a decision to change the IEP
  • reason why an option was chosen
  • date when the change will go into effect

It is important for parents to understand what the IEP team is trying to communicate in the Prior Written Notice. Be sure to ask any questions that you have in order to fully understand what the changes that are being proposed will look like for your child at school.

Related Resources

ASK Essential Questions

  • Could I please have a Prior Written Notice explaining your decision?
  • Has the team considered my input about this decision?
  • Do I correctly understand the changes you are proposing?