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IDEA Complaint Decision 07-059

On August 29, 2007, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the School District of River Falls. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district:

  • Properly responded to the parents’ August 2007 request for an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting;
  • Utilized proper procedures when placing the student in time-out during the fall of 2006;
  • Properly responded to the parents’ November 2006 request to be informed when their child engages in specific behaviors;
  • Improperly disclosed the student’s IEP to non-district staff in the Spring of 2007; and
  • Ensured an aide was properly supervised on June 4, 2007.

On Thursday, August 23, 2007, the parents requested an IEP meeting be held prior to September 4, 2007, the beginning of the school year. This request was made to the student’s teacher. However, the district did not have the staff available to conduct a meeting during the week prior to the beginning of the school year because of staff in-service days. The parents were informed an IEP meeting could not be held before the beginning of school year but one would be held as soon as possible. An IEP meeting was conducted on September 12, 2007. IEP meetings must be scheduled at a mutually agreed on time. Under the circumstances described above, the district could not, because of staff in-service days, find a mutually agreed upon time prior to the beginning of the school year; and consequently, it was not unreasonable to conduct the meeting shortly after the school year commenced.

In October 2006, the parent was informed the student had a “rough time” and was in a room with his teacher. The parents state the student was placed in this room on two other occasions. This room has two doors, adjoins the classroom, serves both regular and special education students, and is not used as a time-out room. It is used primarily for one-to-one instruction, but it is also used for group work and occupational therapy. A staff member is always present with students who are in this room. As indicated by the parent, during the time the student was in this room, his teacher was directly working with him in the room and trying to calm him through use of his blanket and visual schedule. On November 29, 2006, the parents requested they be notified regarding the student’s behaviors during the school day. After winter break, on January 3, 2007, the parents observed the student at school and believed his behavior differed from what they observed at home. The parents then requested an IEP team meeting, which was held on January 12, 2007. The IEP team agreed to establish a communication system, and a form was developed whereby the student’s behaviors throughout the day would be noted and reported to the parents. Although the parents object to how the behaviors were described and interpreted by district staff, the district did respond to the parents’ request by working with them to develop this communication system and notifying them of the student’s behavior.

The district has also provided a consent form, signed by the student’s mother, which permitted the district to share the student’s IEP with university students from the speech department. The student’s IEP was not shared with any other non-district staff.

Finally, in June 2007, the parent observed the student was in a preschool classroom where there was only a licensed special education aide but no licensed teacher. The district states this happened on one occasion, and the teacher was at a meeting but was available to the aide by telephone. The teacher was away from the classroom for approximately one hour, and during that time the aide was facilitating activities set up by the teacher. A district must ensure professional teaching responsibilities are carried out by, or directly supervised by, a special education teacher who is licensed by the department. Direct supervision means regular, continuing interaction between the special education teacher and teacher aide which includes time to evaluate the services provided. There must be sufficient contact between the special education teacher and the teacher aide and between the teacher and the student to enable the teacher to diagnose educational needs, prescribe teaching and learning procedures, and evaluate the effects of teaching. In this case, the teacher was out of the classroom for only a short period of time, the aide was supporting the licensed teacher’s lesson plans, and the licensed teacher was available if needed.

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

//signed CST/SJP 10/18/07
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy