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IDEA Complaint Decision 08-014

On February 1, 2008, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Milwaukee Public Schools. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, in January 2008, properly determined a child’s eligibility for special education.

On December 3, 2007, the child’s parent requested in writing her son be evaluated for “OHI/ADHD/EBD.” The written request was handed to a secretary at the district special education office. However, the written request was not forwarded to the child’s school. In addition, a school administrator met with a district school psychologist and on December 3, 2007, referred the child for a special education evaluation. The reason for the referral is listed as “ADHD per parent report.” Concerns recorded on the December 3 special education referral form completed by the school administrator state: “(Student’s name) parents report that he has ADHD and he has been suspended 8 times this school year (per (school administrator’s name)) for behaviors including theft of school property. Parents are requesting an IEP evaluation due to the impact that (student’s name) medical diagnosis of ADHD may be having on his school performance. Attendance has been a concern in the past but has improved. He has been absent 8 times this year (outside of suspensions) as of 12/3/2007.”

After reviewing the cumulative folder, current referral information and previous interventions, the district individualized education program (IEP) team determined with parent input the student would be evaluated in the following areas: academic achievement, behavior, intellectual, social, emotional, and developmental/adaptive. On December 4, 2007, the child’s mother gave consent for the school district to administer the tests or other evaluation materials described in the notice.

On January 28, 2008, an IEP team met to determine eligibility, develop an initial IEP and determine initial placement. The child’s parents and a parent advocate attended the IEP team meeting. The team considered the criteria for other health impairment and determined the child did not have an impairment. A member of the IEP team recalls the team did not consider other impairments because the parents and the parent’s advocate did not ask directly at the IEP team meeting that other impairment areas be considered; emotional behavioral disability was not listed on the district referral form and the written referral signed by the parent and given to a secretary at the district central office was not in the school records.

A local educational agency must conduct a full and individual initial evaluation to determine if the child is a child with a disability. The child must be assessed in all areas related to the suspected disability. Although the district assessed the student in all appropriate areas, the IEP team focused only on attention deficit under other health impairment criteria in determining eligibility. The team did not consider whether the student met the criteria for emotional behavioral disabilities. The student’s parents have requested an independent education evaluation and a meeting to consider a 504 plan for the student. The district is directed to conduct an IEP team evaluation to determine if the child is a child with a disability. If the IEP team determines the child is a child with a disability, the IEP team must also determine if compensatory services are required due to the delay in determining the child’s eligibility for special education. A copy of the IEP team meeting reports must be sent to the department by April 30, 2008.

The district was recently directed, in a complaint decision dated December 20, 2007, to review and revise, if needed, special education procedures to ensure when conducting a special education evaluation a child is assessed in all areas and all areas of suspected disability are considered by the IEP team. It was further directed all special education leadership liaisons, special services supervisors, school psychologists, and special education teachers be provided training on evaluation procedures. In addition, by February 15, 2008, the district was directed to send to DPI a copy of the district procedures and a signed assurance all identified staff were provided training. On March 3, 2008, the district equitable educational opportunities coordinator sent an e-mail message to train staff. The January 28, 2008, IEP team meeting to determine eligibility for the child involved in this current complaint was conducted before the staff training e-mail was sent. Review of the corrective action documentation submitted for the December 20, 2007, complaint decision will determine whether additional district corrective activities are necessary to ensure all areas of suspected disability are considered by IEP teams when determining eligibility.

District central office procedures for receiving and forwarding special education referrals must be reviewed and revised, if needed. All district central office staff who receive special education referrals must be trained on procedures to ensure referrals are processed correctly and timely. By April 30, 2008, the district must send DPI a copy of the district procedures for accepting and processing special education referrals received at the district central office with a signed assurance all identified staff were provided training.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 3/31/08
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy