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IDEA Complaint Decision 07-090

On December 18, 2007, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Shorewood School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, after January 2007, properly responded to a parent’s request that the district change her child’s special education placement and whether the district properly determined the child’s placement.

On February 19, 2007, a student with learning and speech and language disabilities was suspended for five days for a potentially expellable offense, pending a suspension review meeting. The out-of-school suspension began on February 20, 2007, and extended through February 26, 2007. The reason for the suspension was the student engaged in behaviors that endangered health and safety as well as repeated refusal to follow school rules.

On February 23, 2007, an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting was held for the purpose of IEP review/revision, development of a statement of transition goals and services, a manifestation determination, and determination of placement. Both the student and the parent attended the IEP team meeting. It was determined by the IEP team the behavior was not a manifestation of the student’s disability. All members of the IEP team, including the parent, were in agreement on these items. In reviewing the IEP, under special factors, the IEP noted the student demonstrated behaviors that impeded her learning and those of others. A list of positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports to address the behaviors were also included in the IEP. The IEP stated that the student had logged sixteen behavioral incidents since the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year. Goals for the student included: improving writing, reading comprehension and math skills and improving the student’s behavior in the classroom and school setting. The IEP team determined the student’s needs would best be met at a private day treatment program with an implementation date of March 6, 2007.

The parent alleges the placement offered for the student in March 2007 at a private day treatment program was only for the remainder of the 2006-2007 school year. She alleges the district stated the student could return to the district in the 2007-2008 school year if the student’s grades improved. When the parent indicated a desire for the student to return to the public school setting, an IEP team meeting was held on August 30, 2007. The IEP team meeting was held for the purpose of reviewing the IEP, considering postsecondary goals and transition services as well as to determine continuing placement. The IEP team determined continuing the student’s current placement was the appropriate program to meet the student’s individual needs. The parent did not agree with the placement offer.

Another IEP team meeting was held on November 15, 2007, to consider another parental request for a change in placement. The IEP team once again agreed the current private day treatment program was the appropriate placement for the student in the least restrictive environment. Both the parent and the student did not agree with the placement offer. Placement at the public high school was rejected by the IEP team because the type of self-contained programming the student needed was not available at the public high school. The parent withdrew the student from both the private day treatment program and the Shorewood School District. The parent did not reenroll the student in that district or any other district. The district sent a letter to the parent indicating the district would be initiating truancy procedures. The parent requested another IEP team meeting for February 14, 2008.

An IEP team was held on February 14, 2008. It was determined the student would continue placement at the private day treatment program. The district and the parent are working together to identify appropriate courses to gradually transition the student back to the high school beginning in the fall of the 2008-2009 school year.

In determining the educational placement of a child with a disability, each district must ensure that the placement decision is made by a group of persons, including the parents. This decision is made in conformity with the least restrictive environment provisions and is determined at least annually, is based on the student’s IEP, and is as close as possible to the student’s home.

The IEP team should work toward consensus, but the district has ultimate responsibility to ensure that the IEP includes the services that the student needs in order to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). If the team cannot reach consensus, the school district must provide the parents with prior written notice of the district’s proposals or refusals, or both, regarding the student’s educational program, and the parents have the right to seek resolution of any disagreements through facilitated IEP, mediation, Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) state complaints or by initiating an impartial due process hearing. The district provided the parent with required notice following the August and November 2007 and February 2008 IEP team meetings.

The district responded to multiple requests from the parent to reconsider the student’s placement at the private day treatment program. The student demonstrated improvement within the current placement and other comparable programs were not available within the public high school. The district properly responded to multiple parental requests to have the district change her student’s special education placement and the district properly determined the student’s placement.

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

//signed CST 2/18/08
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy