Special Education/IEP vs 504


Dear Michelle,
I signed an IEP today that I now wish I had not. Can I retract my signature?  I agreed to testing which included the re-evaluation of my sons eligibility.  What can I do? They are trying to put him on a 504. I know there must be some differences but I am unable to find them. My gut says keep him on the IEP.

Special Needs Advocacy
Special Needs Advocacy  

School Success for Kids
School Success for Kid  
Dear Terri,

Thanks for reaching out to me about these important CONSENT questions.  I am sorry it took me a bit longer than usual to send my answer.  I wanted to add a few things to it and I do apologize.  It sounds like the school district has already told you that it intends to dismiss your child from special education.  It also sounds like the school district requested evaluations for which you signed consent.  

Based on your question, I feel you are asking a two part question, so my answer will be separated into two parts--consent for special education and consent for re-evaluation/assessment.  I am then going to discuss eligibility for special education under IDEA for the IEP and under the Rehabilitation Act for the 504 Plan.

You told me you signed an IEP (provided consent) and now you wish you had not.  Does this mean that you don't want some parts of the IEP to be implemented? If so, under California regulations, a parent can provide consent for only parts of the IEP.  The school has to implement the parts you consent to, but if the school believes that the parts you don't consent to are critical for your child, then the school may initiate a hearing against you. So yes, I think you can revoke your consent for parts of the IEP not to be delivered.  

Remember that all of what you are asking is interpreted in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Rehabilitation Act, which govern the IEP and 504 Plan processes, respectively.  You also have state laws which can be a bit different from the IDEA.  So because of this, I also feel that you should consult with an attorney in your area who specializes in special education.  They could be from different states but they would have to understand your state laws.  I am not trying to provide you with legal advice, although much of your question is legal in nature.  

The other scenario may be that perhaps the current IEP you just signed reduces your son's services, compared to the previous IEP? If your concern is that the IEP changes your son's placement to less service and fewer supports, then yes, I think you could write a letter to the school district attaching a signature page.  In the letter, you would explain that you want the previous IEP to remain in effect, or explain that now considering your reflection of the team's discussion, you erred in signing the IEP, or whatever the case may be.  Also, you would cross off your signature, and put something like (revoked, date).  But before you send this, I would get the "OK" from a legal expert, to be sure it will have the legal effect you desire.  

If you signed the IEP, but do not believe it is appropriate, I feel you have several choices about what to do:
-You could wait until the district does its evaluations and then dispute the evaluations, asking for an evaluation at public expense
-You could obtain private evaluations at your expense and present them to the school district, using the examiners to help you in the IEP meeting
-You could do nothing and see how the new placement works, but request frequent data collection.  You could add tutoring or support at your expense
-You could request a hearing or mediation (please consult with an attorney!)

Also, this is the end of the school year, and summer will start soon.  The timing of the decisions can be important.  For example, if the evauations will include assessments that will be done at the start of the upcoming school year, the teachers will not get to know your child until later in the year.  So the current teachers should be engaged in sharing the data to make these important decisions.  

If the school dismisses your son from the IEP/special education, it is saying that he may not meet the definition of one of the 14 disabilities under IDEA.


Or, the district may be saying that there is no negative effect of the disability on your child's progress or learning the curriculum.  

Or, it may be saying that he does not need specialized instruction.

Here are three things you can do to help you navigate all of this:

1. I think it may help you to make a list of reasons that you feel your child needs the IEP, and try to see if they fit into the categories above.  

2. I would also advise you to compare the two IEPs--the one you just signed and the one that immediately preceeded that one, to be sure you understand what the changes are that you consented to, and which aspects you do not think are appropriate.  

3. Also, review carefully the progress reports for the IEP and the most current evaluation reports, even if they were from some years ago.  These will guide you to compare the evaluations that are now underway, and the results of those evaluations.  Make charts, graphs , and visuals if you can.  

The information that will be obtained during the evaluation process will be used to make the determination for contiued special education.   The school district should not predetermine what the team's decision will be.  

At the same time, in most states, parents will have the burden to show whether a child should continue to be eligible for special education.  So that is why I usually suggest that a parent needs to bring in experts such as psychologists or educational experts like myself. That way, whether you are going through the IEP process, or whether you are engaging in a dispute, you will have the experts you need if there is a disagreement.

If you obtain the evaluation assessments privately, you could either:
-revoke your consent for the evaluations all together by the school district and do all of those recommended assessments privately at your own expense
-supplement the district evaluation with your private evaluations, allowing the examiners to work together do there are no duplications

I have an IEP Audit service (www.abc4lifesuccess.com) that may be useful to you, if you continue to have difficulty with the process.  I review all the documents and do interviews, and collect information in different ways, and issue an expert report about a child's needs, from eligibility/disability defintion to placement and services.  

A parent provides consent for the initial provision of special education services and can revoke that consent in part or in full.  A parent has a right to provide informed consent
for assessment and should be fully informed about all the evaluations and their purposes.  So a parent I think should be able to freely revoke consent.  

However, the way and manner this is accomplished may be important.  I think it would be worth your time and money to at least consult with a special education attorney on this matter.  You could put together a packet of information:  prior evaluations, paperwork from the meetings, progress reports, report cards, IEPs, work samples, test scores, etc. and the attorney should be able to help guide you on these important consent issues.  

See here my previous answer to a concerned grandparent.  She wrote to me because the school district had dismissed her grandchild from special education.  


I hope this answer has helped you as you advocate for your child's education!  Please feel free to follow up with me.  I wish you all the best!  

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Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.


I can answer questions about disability definitions and criteria for services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, No Child Left Behind, 504 plans, how to craft an IEP that drives the appropriate services, school placement, dispute options, and least restrictive environment. I worked in the public school system as a special educator and am now in private consulting practice where we assist parents as they navigate the special education process. I have expertise in all educational disabilities except blind/visual impairments and deaf/hard of hearing. This includes ADHD and other health impairments, medical conditions, dyslexia and learning disabilities, Autism, emotional disabilities, language processing problems, and interfering behaviors.


10 years as special educator and administrator in public school system; Director of ABCs for Life Success since 1998; Expert services such as analysis and testimony; Author: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book: What you can do now to advocate for your exceptional child's education; Special Needs Advocacy Training Institute; internet radio show Teach Your Children Well: Hot Topics in Education; author School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders released March 2010 (Prufrock Press).

Masters in Special Education with Emphasis on Inclusive Education (Johns Hopkins University); B.S.in Special Education (James Madison University); Conduct training for Universities, public and private schools, parent groups. Adjunct professor current George Washington University and prior George Mason University.

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