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IDEA Complaint Decision 07-088

On November 23, 2007, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Shawano School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2007-2008 school year, properly implemented a student’s individualized education program (IEP) regarding required sign language facilitation, use of Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) support, and use of a communication notebook.

On October 9, 2007, an IEP team meeting was held for a student for the purpose of evaluation, placement, and annual IEP development. Under special factors, the IEP states the student has communication needs that could impede learning. The student is nonverbal and uses alternate forms of communication. The student’s current mode of communication is sign language supported by visual picture input and picture exchange. The IEP also states that the student will be exposed to sign language throughout the day from staff and peers will be introduced to signs the student is learning. The IEP states a sign language facilitator will be with the student throughout her school day for social and academic support including signing to the student.

The parent alleges that the sign language facilitator assigned to the student is not signing to the student in the correct fashion nor signing and using the picture communication consistently across the student’s school day. The parent has visited the school and has observed the sign language facilitator only verbalizing and not signing to the student.

A sign language facilitator was employed by the district beginning September 3, 2007, and ending November 30, 2007. When the facilitator left the position, substitute paraprofessionals were utilized for the student beginning December 3, 2007, and continuing to the present day. The district has not filled the position with a permanent employee. The district has employed two paraprofessionals in this capacity since December 3, 2007. Neither of the paraprofessionals are trained in using sign language and do not have the proper qualifications to implement the IEP. The use of PECS support and the communication notebook have not been utilized. The department concludes the district did not properly implement a student’s IEP regarding required sign language facilitation, use of PECS support, and use of a communication notebook.

Within thirty days, the district will reconvene an IEP team meeting to determine the student's current needs related to sign language facilitation, use of PECS support, and use of the communication notebook and determine whether the student needs additional services due to the lapse in provision of required services. The district will submit a copy of the revised IEP to the department by March 1.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST/AJC 1/22/08
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy