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IDEA Complaint Decision 05-003

On January 14, 2005, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Stoughton Area School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 school years, properly evaluated a student for specific learning disability and for other health impairment, and properly responded to the parent's request for an independent educational evaluation (IEE).

On February 17, 2004, the district conducted an IEP team meeting to determine a student's eligibility for special education. The IEP team considered the areas of specific learning disability and other health impairment and determined the child is not a child with a disability. Additional documentation required when a child is evaluated for specific learning disability indicates all members of the IEP team, with the exception of the child's parents, were in agreement with the conclusion. The IEP team determined the child did not display a significant discrepancy between achievement and cognitive ability or exhibit an information processing deficit. Another IEP team supported this determination when it met on September 29, 2004, to review additional evaluation data. The parent alleges the discrepancy analysis for determining specific learning disability was conducted improperly and no reliable standardized tests were performed to assess information processing. The parent also is concerned that the district conducted insufficient testing for mathematics.

During initial identification, when determining whether a child has a specific learning disability (SLD), an IEP team must consider whether all of the following are true: the child's ability to meet the instructional demands of the classroom and to achieve commensurate with his or her age and ability levels is severely delayed in oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skill, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation, or mathematical reasoning; a significant discrepancy exists between the child's academic achievement in the seven areas mentioned above and intellectual ability; the child has an information processing deficit that is linked to the child's classroom achievement delays and to the significant discrepancy; and no exclusionary factors apply. The IEP team considered all of these factors, including information from standardized assessments of mathematics and information processing. The IEP team determined the child did not exhibit a significant discrepancy between academic achievement and intellectual ability or an information processing deficit. In a letter addressed to the parent following the IEP team meeting, the district acknowledged an error in selecting predicted achievement scores as opposed to general intellectual ability before completing the discrepancy analysis for SLD, but determined even after correcting the error a significant discrepancy was not identified.

Following the IEP team determination that their child is not a child with a disability, the parents wrote to the district on February 22, 2004, requesting complete information and rules on obtaining an IEE. The district offered to meet with the parents to discuss their concerns. The parents declined to meet, but wrote a second letter to the district on April 19, 2004, notifying them of the parents' intention to obtain an IEE and requesting the district's IEE criteria, including any guidelines or limitations in the selection process. The district sent the parent a copy of their school board policy and stated that a list of licensed professionals who may conduct IEEs was available upon request. On May 24, 2004, the parent asked the district to provide the list of evaluators, which the district provided on May 28, 2004.

Upon receiving a request for an IEE, a local educational agency must inform parents of the agency's IEE criteria and where to obtain an IEE. The district did not inform the parents of the agency's IEE criteria and where to obtain an IEE upon receiving the parents' February 28 request. The district provided a listing of the names and addresses of examiners who meet the local educational agency criteria for conducting an IEE on May 28, 2004, and subsequently paid for the IEE on August 11, 2004. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district is directed to develop a corrective action plan to ensure that upon receiving a request for an IEE, the district provides parents of students with disabilities with required information.

On September 29, 2004, an IEP team meeting was conducted to review additional evaluation data, including findings from an independent educational evaluation, to determine eligibility for special education. The IEP team considered the criteria for other health impairment (OHI) and need for special education and determined the child is not a child with a disability. The teacher for emotional behavioral disabilities (EBD) observed the child in a classroom in preparation for the meeting and shared her observations at the September IEP team meeting. The parent maintains the district did not properly consider eligibility criteria for OHI or obtain consent prior to the EBD teacher's observation.

In order to meet the criteria for other health impairment (OHI), a child must have limited strength, vitality, or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems. The child's health problem must adversely affect his or her educational performance. The district's IEP team concluded that the child has a chronic health problem. However, they further determined that the child does not need special education because his needs are being addressed through regular education interventions. The team concluded that the student exhibits average to above average performance on achievement and classroom tests, generally behaves appropriately, has appropriate social interactions and follows school rules. The team determined that the student receives above average scores for completed homework and that regular education supports offered to the student enable him to complete homework, stay organized, and set educational goals. The IEP team reviewed information needed to determine whether the student has an other health impairment and reached a determination based on OHI eligibility criteria.

A district must notify the parents of a child of any evaluation procedures the agency proposed to conduct and the qualifications of the individuals who will conduct the evaluation and their names, if known. The district proposing to conduct an initial evaluation must obtain parental consent before the evaluation is conducted. Although the parent was notified that the EBD teacher was a member of the child's IEP team, the district did not notify the parent that the teacher would conduct an assessment of their child. The EBD teacher visited one of the child's classes and provided her observations at the IEP team meeting. The observation was conducted for an evaluation and therefore prior parental consent was required. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district is directed to develop a corrective action plan to ensure that the district provides notice of the evaluation and obtains parental consent prior to evaluating a child for a disability.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 3/15/05
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy