What is "Stay Put"?
One of the evils Congress sought to remedy with the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Act, which was revised and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990, was the unilateral exclusion of disabled children by schools. In passing this law, Congress was concerned about the widespread practice of relegating handicapped children to private institutions and warehousing them in special classes.
The IDEA provides parents and children rights, including the right to stay put
The IDEA provides parents and children with a variety of rights including rights in the event a dispute arises between them and a school district regarding a child’s individual education program (IEP).
One of the purposes of the law is to prevent school officials from unilaterally removing a child from a public school classroom and relegating them to an inappropriate placement over the parent's objection pending the completion of review proceedings concerning the child’s contested IEP.
In such a situation, the IDEA protects the child by requiring maintenance of “the status quo” while the dispute is pending.
Stay put allows children to remain in their current educational placement pending resolution of a dispute.
Maintenance of the status quo means that under the IDEA, during the resolution of a dispute, a child is entitled to remain in their current educational placement, which is commonly called the "stay put placement".
The courts have recognized that in creating the “stay put” provision, Congress meant to deprive districts of the power to unilaterally change a child’s placement. This aligns with the IDEA's emphasis on parent participation in the educational decisions for their children.
For purposes of stay put, the current educational placement is typically the placement called for in the student's IEP that has been implemented prior to the dispute arising.
Stay put does not apply in certain circumstances
For disciplinary matters concerning weapons, illegal drugs, or the infliction of serious bodily injury, the school district may immediately change a student’s placement to an alternative interim placement for up to 45 days. There is no stay put requirement in such circumstances. A parent in California may challenge this placement by filing a due process complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings.
A change in location does not, by itself, constitute a change in placement.
In recent cases, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a change in location, by itself, does not qualify as a change in educational placement. Instead, a change in placement occurs when there is a significant change in a student's educational program.