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IDEA Complaint Decision 04-019

On April 19, 2004, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Almond-Bancroft School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2003-2004 school year, properly determined the educational placement for a child with a disability.

During all but the last portion of the 2003-2004 school year, the student attended the school she would attend if she did not have a disability. As in prior years, the frequency and intensity of behavioral incidents involving the student began to increase near semester break. However, district staff viewed the behavior in 2004 as more significant when compared with other years. The district held meetings between February and April, several of which were individualized education program (IEP) team meetings, all of which were attended by the student's father. The meetings were efforts to address the student's behavior. The student has a behavior plan which addresses how to respond to behavior incidents. The behavior plan was modified by IEP teams several times during the school year.

In mid-April the student was physically aggressive toward school staff. As a result of this incident and the intensity of behavior problems in recent months, the district convened another IEP team meeting in late April 2004, which the student's father attended. The IEP team reviewed the student's behavior and other educational needs and concluded that placement should not continue at the school the student had been attending. The IEP team considered and rejected several placement options, including several in nearby districts and a day treatment program located in another community. The programs were rejected for varying reasons, including the parent's concern about the distance to one of the programs; the limited educational component available in one; the similarity of one of the programs to the one the district had been providing and the dissimilarity of the students' needs and abilities in several of the programs as compared with this student's needs. These factors were described at length in the placement notice sent to the parents following the IEP team meeting. The IEP team determined that for each of the remaining weeks of the school year, the student would receive several hours of academic instruction and behavior-related counseling at home and 8 hours per week of instruction in the community from a private provider as employment and community living transition services. The father expressed his disagreement with this decision during the meeting, partly because he believed his child would dislike the program. The parents continue to disagree with the program and placement decisions.

An IEP team met again in late May. The team determined that the student should receive several additional hours of individual instruction as extended school year services after the end of the regular school year and several hours of instruction just prior to the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year to prepare her for school. The amount of instruction during the summer break was determined based on the student's individual needs. The IEP team also concluded that the program and placement developed during the April IEP team meeting would continue for several weeks at the beginning of the new school year and that an IEP team should be convened at the end of August, just prior to the beginning of school, to review the student's program and placement.

In developing a child's program, IEP teams must consider the student's individual needs and the parents' concerns for enhancing their child's education. In making placement decisions, IEP teams may remove a student with a disability from the regular educational environment only when the nature or severity of student's disability requires education in another setting in order to achieve satisfactory educational progress. The IEP team should work toward consensus, but the district has the ultimate responsibility to ensure that the IEP includes the services that the child needs in order to receive an appropriate program. If the team cannot reach consensus, the district must provide the parents with written notice of the district's proposals or refusals and the parents have the right to seek resolution of any disagreements through mediation, through an IDEA complaint, or by initiating a due process hearing.

The IEP team which met in April 2004 was not able to reach consensus because the parent continued to disagree with the program and placement determinations reached by other participants. The IEP describes the student's individual educational needs, including those related to behavior, and the parents' concerns for enhancing education. The IEP team considered several placement options for implementing the student's program and the district documented the team's decisions for each potential placement in detail in the notice sent to the parents. The decisions the team made regarding each placement specifically relate to the student's individual educational needs. The district determined the student's program and placement and provided required notice to the child's parents with a copy of the child's IEP. The district followed required procedures and reached individualized determinations supported by student-specific information.

This concludes our review of this complaint, which we are closing.

//signed CST 6/16/04
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy