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IDEA Complaint Decision 07-067

On September 21, 2007, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the [Unnamed] Public School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues cover the period between September 20, 2006, and September 20, 2007.

  • Whether the district appropriately responded to a parent request for a reevaluation and properly conducted a reevaluation within the past three years and whether the district appropriately responded to a parent request for a functional behavioral assessment (FBA).

A school district must conduct a reevaluation of a student with a disability either when the district determines a reevaluation is needed or if the student’s parent or teacher requests an evaluation. A reevaluation must occur at least once every three years, unless the parent and the district agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary. The complainant expressed concern that no comprehensive reevaluation had been conducted in the past three years.

A three-year reevaluation of the student was conducted on December 7, 2004. Prior to conducting the evaluation, the district reviewed existing data and considered whether additional data was needed to complete the reevaluation. The parent was contacted by phone to discuss the evaluation on November 5, 2004, and agreed no additional tests were needed. As allowed by law, the individualized education program (IEP) team determined no additional data were needed. The parent participated in the review of existing data and the decision that no additional tests were needed. There is no record the parent requested a comprehensive reevaluation be conducted after December 7, 2004. The district met the requirement to conduct a reevaluation at least once every three years.

When a parent requests the district consider a change in the student’s identification, evaluation, IEP, or educational placement, the district must either grant the parent’s request or notify the parent of their refusal and provide a reason for the decision. During a meeting with the building principal early in December 2006, the parent requested current information about the student’s behavioral and emotional status. The parent wanted this information for his own use to better understand the student’s behavior problems at school and at home. Neither the parent nor district considered this to be a request for a FBA or special education reevaluation. The request was treated as a request for student services. On December 4, 2007, the parent gave his written consent for a school psychologist to administer a behavior rating scale to the student, the parent, and a number of the student’s teachers. The assessment was completed, and on January 4, 2007, a report was provided to the parent and put in the student’s file.

During the 2006-2007 school year, staff recall discussing an FBA with the parent. The topic came up in general and as a possible option to consider at some point. Staff do not recall the parent making a specific request that the district conduct an FBA either verbally or in writing. While conducting an FBA may have been useful in helping staff reflect on the student’s increasing emotional and behavioral concerns and analyzing existing and potential positive behavioral interventions, the district was not required to conduct an FBA. A district may be required to conduct an FBA when the district changes a student’s placement for disciplinary reasons. Whether the district was required to conduct a manifestation determination will be addressed below. There is no evidence the district failed to respond to the parent’s request for a reevaluation or an FBA.

  • Whether the district properly changed the student's placement following a manifestation determination, whether the district properly determined the student’s continued placement, and whether the district properly conducted an annual review of the child’s IEP and placement.

A school district is required to conduct a manifestation determination within ten school days after the student’s placement has been changed because of a violation of a code of student conduct, the student has been suspended from school for more than ten consecutive days, or when the student has been subjected to a series of disciplinary removals totaling more than ten days. On December 15, 2006, the parent was invited to an IEP team meeting to discuss the student’s behavior and placement following a disciplinary code violation. The notice identified the purpose of the meeting as being to conduct a manifestation determination, develop an annual IEP, develop a transition statement, and determine placement. The meeting was held on December 19, 2006. Both parents attended the meeting.

At the time of the December 19 meeting, the student had been suspended four times since the start of the school year, for a total of ten days, and had been receiving a weekly average of two to three office reports since the end of September. The student’s annual IEP, developed on September 11, had been revised on October 23, 2006, to reflect the decision to remove the student from most of his general education classes to a special education setting because of increasing needs related to verbally aggressive and threatening behavior, which were considered by the district to be violations of the student code of conduct. A behavior intervention plan was included in the student’s IEP. The student’s placement was not changed prior to the December 19th IEP team meeting.

Under the specific circumstances of this situation, none of the conditions were met that would have required the district to conduct a manifestation determination. A manifestation determination was not needed for the IEP team to change the student’s IEP or placement in response to increasing behavioral concerns and violations of the district code of conduct. Even though the IEP team used a variation of the department’s Manifestation Determination Review form as part of the meeting documentation, it was not required to do so.

The IEP team revised the student’s IEP to reflect a shortened school day, the addition of related services to address emotional and behavioral concerns, and placement in the district alternative program. No other changes to the IEP were made. The end date for the IEP and placement remained September 10, 2007. District staff admitted an error had been made on the IEP team invitation and cover sheet noting one purpose of the meeting was to develop an annual IEP rather than IEP review and revision. The error in the notices may have added to the parent’s concern that placement had been determined inappropriately and a new IEP was needed. In addition, calling for a manifestation determination when one was not required may have added to the parent’s confusion about the placement decision. This said, the IEP team could change the student’s placement following a review of the student’s current IEP, behavior intervention plan, discussion of the student’s behavior subject to disciplinary action, and current and potential placement options. On December 19, 2006, the IEP team including the student and the student’s parents properly determined the student’s placement.

During the December 19, 2006, IEP team meeting, the IEP team discussed the intent to review the placement decision at the end of the semester (mid January). The parents were informed that return to the student’s attendance area school would be contingent upon improvement in the student’s attendance, effort, and behavior with no additional policy violations. Before a meeting could be scheduled to discuss a possible return to the less restrictive setting, the student was involved in a fight with another student; a policy violation. There was no requirement to hold a formal IEP team meeting to consider a change in placement at this time.

On March 6, 2007, a conference was held at the request of the parents to discuss the student’s possible return to his attendance area school. The district did not consider this to be an IEP team meeting. Given the student’s behavioral status and need for structure, the alternative school staff communicated it was unlikely the student would be successful in a less restrictive setting. The parents agreed the student should remain at the alternative school through the end of the school year. A tentative conference date was scheduled to review the student’s behavior at the end of the school year. This meeting was later canceled by the parent. The parent informed the district he would be pursuing home schooling for the student; however, no paperwork was completed to that effect, and the student remained enrolled in the district. No IEP team meeting was scheduled, nor required, to consider the student’s continuing placement prior to September 10, 2007.

The student’s annual IEP expired on September 10, 2007. In August, the district was notified the student had been moved by the county Department of Human Services to a temporary residence and would be receiving educational services there until a more permanent placement decision was made by the county. The district was in frequent contact with the student’s county worker and was informed the student would not return home at the end of the summer. The district decided to wait to schedule an IEP team meeting until the county established the student’s residence and a decision was made regarding where the student would receive educational services. As of September 10, when the annual IEP expired, the student continued to reside in the district and, therefore, the district was responsible for having an IEP in place. On September 17th, the student was placed in a residence by the courts. The residence was within district boundaries. The district was notified the parents had arranged to transfer the student to an educational program outside the district on September 18th when it received a request for transfer of student’s records from the school. No student specific corrective action is required since the student is no longer enrolled in a district educational program. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district will submit proposed corrective action to the department to ensure at the beginning of each school year, the district will have an IEP in effect for each child with a disability within its jurisdiction and each child’s IEP will be reviewed and revised, if needed, periodically, but not less than annually, to determine whether annual goals are being achieved.

  • Whether the district ensured general education teachers were informed of their responsibilities for implementing the student’s IEP.

Districts must ensure a student’s general education teachers have access to each student’s IEP and are informed of their specific responsibilities related to implementing the IEP. At the beginning of the year, all building staff were reminded how to access student IEPs and reminded to review the on-line Learning Assistance/Student Profiles for students on their class lists who have IEPs. These profiles include general information about accommodations and supports needed in general education and the special education case manager contact for the student. The student’s IEP for the 2006-2007 school year was developed on September 11, 2006. His Learning Profile was not updated following the IEP team meeting, and no contact was made with the student’s teachers to inform them of their specific responsibilities, including their role in implementing the student’s behavior intervention plan. It was only after the student began to have difficulties that meetings occurred with individual teachers to review the student’s needs and discuss strategies for addressing the student’s behaviors. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district will submit proposed corrective action to the department to ensure each student’s IEP is accessible to each regular education teacher, special education teacher, related services provider, and any other service provider who is responsible for its implementation; each teacher and provider is informed of his or her specific responsibilities related to implementing the child’s IEP and the specific accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided for the child in accordance with the IEP.

  • Whether the district afforded the parent the opportunity to participate in IEP team meetings and decisions.

School districts must take steps to ensure one or both of the parents of a child are present at each IEP team meeting or are afforded the opportunity to participate by other means. The complainant indicated he felt meetings that should have been IEP meetings were not held as such, and he felt decisions were made about the student’s program and continuing placement without providing the parent an adequate opportunity to participate and provide input into the decision. District staff who worked with the student during the 2006-2007 school year consistently commented the parent was very involved in the student’s education and either one or both parents attended all conferences and meetings. District staff noted the parent requested meetings to share concerns about the student’s behavior at home and discuss strategies for addressing concerns. School meetings were held frequently in response to parental requests and to update the parents about the student’s progress or lack thereof. These meetings were not considered IEP team meetings. IEP team meetings were held on September 11, 2006, and December 19, 2006. The student’s parents were appropriately notified of the meetings and were in attendance. Parent concerns were noted. The district afforded the parent the opportunity to participate in IEP team meetings and decisions.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 11/19/07
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy