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IDEA Complaint Decision 07-016

On February 26, 2007, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2006-2007 school year, ensured that it properly determined a child’s eligibility for special education and related services.

On March 27, 2006, the district initiated an evaluation; and on May 24, 2006, an individualized education program (IEP) team met to determine eligibility. The IEP team included representatives from outside agencies who had provided Birth-to-three services to the child.

The IEP team determined that while the child met criteria for speech and language and orthopedic impairments, the child was not a child with a disability because he did not need special education. In the evaluation report, the IEP team noted with respect to language needs, the child was functioning well in his current environment, a regular day care center. With respect to his orthopedic impairment, the staff at his day care was able to make accommodations for his gross motor needs. The district offered to recheck the child’s functioning and determine his need for special education after the child moved up to the next level of day care programming with his same age peers.

On November 30, 2006, the parent contacted the district and expressed concern the child was not receiving early childhood services. The parent had been under the impression the district was going to review the case and decide if the child needed services after he turned three in August. The parent indicated she was having additional testing done and agreed to share the results with the district. The director reviewed the prior evaluation findings with the parent and informed her of her right to mediation, complaint, and due process. The director also offered to continue to monitor the child’s functioning. The director did not inform the parent of her right to make a referral for a special education evaluation at that time.

On February 16, 2007, the parent provided the district with the results of one test and indicated additional outside assessment could not be completed for six to eight months. The parent expressed frustration with the delay in getting the assessments completed. The director of special education shared options including mediation, complaint, and due process, and suggested they wait until there was additional information to share with an IEP team. The director did not inform the parent of her right to make a referral. After the parent informed the district she was filing a complaint, the district suggested they could do more evaluation, but the parent decided not to proceed with the district’s offer.

Following notification of the department’s receipt of the complaint, on March 5, 2007, the district held a meeting among staff who had been at the IEP meeting and who provide services to other children at the day care to inform them of the complaint and to provide an opportunity for staff to share anything that may have been overlooked. This was not an IEP team meeting. The district determined that the original eligibility decision was justified and expressed willingness to continue monitoring the child’s areas of concern. On March 23, 2007, a referral was initiated by the district in response to speech concerns noted in the child’s day care setting. An IEP team meeting will be conducted to consider the child’s eligibility for special education and related services.

When determining whether a child is a child with a disability, a district must first identify whether the child meets eligibility criteria for one or more impairments. The district must then consider whether, as a result of the impairment(s), the child needs special education and related services. In its consideration of need for special education and related services, the district must identify the child’s needs that cannot be met through the regular education program as structured at the time the evaluation was conducted; modifications, if any, that can be made in the regular education program that will allow the child to access the general education curriculum and meet the educational standards that apply to all children; and additions or modifications, if any, that the child needs which are not provided through the general education curriculum. The department concludes that during the May 2006 evaluation, the district collected and the IEP team considered the information needed to determine whether the child is a child with a disability and properly documented its eligibility determination.

State law requires school districts to locate, identify, and evaluate all resident children with disabilities who have not graduated from high school. A parent may submit a referral for an evaluation of a suspected disability to the school district. When a parent requests an evaluation for a suspected disability, a district must inform the parent of the right to make a referral and about how to make the referral. The district must accept and process all referrals submitted to the district. Several times between November 2006 and February 2007, the parent expressed concerns that her child needed special education because of impairments identified during the May 2006 IEP team evaluation. Although the district staff responded to the parent’s concerns by offering to monitor the student’s functioning at the day care and informed the parent of her right to mediation, complaint, and a due process hearing, the district acknowledged it did not inform the parent of her right to submit another referral for an initial evaluation. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district must submit proposed corrective action to the department to ensure that when a parent requests an evaluation for a suspected disability, district staff will inform the parent of the right to make a referral and how to make the referral.

The district has already initiated a new initial special education evaluation. If the child is found to be a child with a disability, the district must send to the department a copy of the IEP team evaluation report.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed 4/12/07
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy