PWN like a Pro

Does your team write prior written notices that communicate clearly to parents and protect the district in case of a dispute? Or are the PWNs somewhat lacking? After a long (possibly contentious) ARD meeting, drafting a cogent and detailed PWN can feel overwhelming. But its definitely worth the time and effort. A strong PWN can help avoid misunderstandings and provide compelling evidence in the event of a TEA or due process complaint.  

Let’s start with the basics. When is PWN required? 

  • When the district proposes or refuses 
  • To initiate or change 
  • Identification 
  • Evaluation 
  • Educational placement 
  • Provision of FAPE 

This means teams will want to provide PWN after each IEP meeting and amendment as well as when the district is proposing or refusing to do a special education evaluation and for all eligibility determinations. A PWN may be required in other instances as well – such as when refusing to convene an IEP meeting at the parent’s request. Remember that a PWN is required regardless of whether the parent or the district made the proposal, and regardless of whether the parent agreed with the decision. Make sure your teams understand when a PWN is required and, if in doubt, err on the side of caution and send a PWN. 

What must be included in a PWN? 

  1. What action(s) is the school proposing or refusing?
  2. Why is the school proposing or refusing that action? 
  3. What evaluation procedures, assessments, records, or reports were used as a basis for the proposed or refused action?  
  4. What other options did the IEP team consider and why were those options rejected?  
  5. What other factors are relevant to the proposal or refusal? 
  6. A statement that parents have the protections stated in the procedural safeguards and how to obtain a copy. 
  7. Sources for parents to contact for help in understanding the IDEA. 

Numbers 6 and 7 should be standard on your PWN form. Numbers 1 through 5 are where art and skill come into play. The first thing to remember is that the PWN must be written in language that is understandable to the general public and in the parent’s native language or mode of communication. Do not assume that your audience understands the IDEA (and its many acronyms), knows the student, or attended the IEP meeting where the decisions were made. Next, the IEP and meeting notes can serve as the PWN, but there is a risk that required components will be left out, so a stand-alone form or letter is advisable.  

Finally, notice that we listed numbers 1-5 as questions. When drafting the PWN, pretend you’re answering these questions asked by the parent, your boss, or a hearing officer. Provide detailed explanations, in clear and objective language, and make sure the answers are individualized and reference specific data or other substantive reasons. Vague or generic PWNs are often the source of trouble, so take the time to make yours all-pro. 

Please reach out to our Special Education team with questions or for guidance. And check out our March PWN webinar, which can be licensed to train your teams.