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IDEA Complaint Decision 08-029

On March 18, 2008, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Ripon Area School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2007-08 school year:

  • Properly implemented the student’s individualized education program (IEP) regarding the use of visual aids;
  • Properly revised and implemented the student’s IEP with regard to math instruction;
  • Properly responded to the parent’s request for an IEP meeting; and
  • Improperly disclosed confidential student information to non-district staff.

The parent’s complaint primarily focuses on concerns regarding the development and implementation of the student’s IEP to address student needs in math. These concerns include measuring progress on grade level skills, using visual aids during math instruction, changing the student’s math class from general education to special education, providing instruction in the general education curriculum, and providing the special education services as listed on the IEP.

The IEP team met on March 13, 2007, to develop the student’s annual IEP. Between May 29, 2007, and February 22, 2008, five interim IEP team meetings were held to address concerns raised by the parent or in response to a parent request for a meeting. IEP revisions were made at each meeting. An additional IEP meeting was held on February 28, 2008, to complete the student’s annual IEP at the request of the district. The parent participated in all meetings.

In the complaint, the parent noted a cause of the student’s difficulty in math was the district’s failure to provide needed visuals and manipulatives during math instruction. The student’s IEPs in effect during 2007-2008 documented the need for such modifications during math instruction. Information provided by the district verifies a variety of visual cues and supports were used with the student to support her learning in the general education math class and after she moved to the special education room for math.

On November 6, 2007, the IEP team revised the student’s IEP to increase progress monitoring in response to the parent’s request for additional and more frequent information about the student’s progress. The parent asserts the district did not appropriately contact her to discuss changes to the student’s IEP as noted on a progress report dated January 25, 2008, and then unilaterally changed the student’s placement for math. Documentation provided by the parent and district indicate ongoing correspondence prior to and following the January 25 progress report regarding the student’s needs in math and options for addressing the lack of progress including a change in the student’s placement from a general education to a special education classroom for math.

On January 25, the parent responded she would not consent to a change in the student’s math placement and posed a number of questions about the proposed change. The district did not change the student’s placement at that time. The district responded to the parent’s questions on January 29. On February 1, the parent reiterated she did not agree with the district’s recommendation to change the student’s math class. The student’s annual IEP meeting was scheduled for February 28. On February 11, the parent requested an IEP meeting be held before February 28 to address the student’s lack of math progress. The district scheduled a meeting for February 22. At the meeting, the IEP team reviewed progress data and determined the student required specially designed math instruction that could not be provided in the general education classroom, and the student’s math placement was changed. The new IEP was implemented on February 25. The IEP team met again on February 28 to complete an annual IEP. The parent participated in the meeting. A number of additional changes were made to the IEP regarding the student’s math instruction, including increasing progress monitoring to twice monthly.

Another concern raised in the complaint was the student did not receive math instruction as written on the IEP following the February 25 change in placement. The parent believed the teacher did not provide instruction as written because the teacher was also responsible for teaching another small group during the same class period when the student was scheduled to receive math instruction. The parent also believed the IEP statement of participation in the general curriculum was not consistent with her understanding and the student was not participating in the general curriculum even though such participation was checked on the IEP.

The student’s IEP provides for one period daily of specially designed small group instruction in math. The IEP math goal and benchmarks were derived from skills taught in the general education curriculum at the student’s grade. Key skills from the general education curriculum are incorporated into the student’s specially designed instruction. Specialized instruction is also provided in related prerequisite skills not yet mastered by the student. These skills are documented on the teacher’s daily lesson plans. Even though the student does not receive instruction in the general education classroom, the content of the student’s instruction is based in the general education curriculum. This information is documented in the IEP and was the topic of other correspondence between the district and parent, both before and after the February IEP team meetings.

There are three other students in the special education room during the period the student receives math instruction. These students are scheduled to receive instruction in another subject. All four students and the teacher sit at the same table during the period. At times, other students enter and exit the room to receive intermittent special education support. A paraprofessional is assigned to the class to help support the implementation of student IEPs. Since February 25, the teacher’s schedule has provided for daily explicit instruction in math with the student named in the complaint. Following explicit instruction in a skill, the student is provided with specially designed guided and independent practice. The teacher shifts between the two instructional groups during the period as per the lesson plan. Either the teacher or aide provides ongoing monitoring and support of the student for guided and independent math practice throughout the period. The student works on math during the period using specially designed instructional materials.

On March 3, 2008, the parent notified the district of her disagreement with the IEP and requested a number of changes to be made. The district responded in writing on the same day indicating staff needed additional clarification about some of the requests before the district could respond and an IEP team meeting would be scheduled for this purpose. On March 4, the parent informed the district she disagreed with the IEP and was planning to file a complaint. The district scheduled an IEP team meeting for March 27 to discuss the parent’s March 3 request and other concerns. On March 24, the parent asked the district to cancel the meeting until after the complaint decision was issued. The district complied with the parent’s request.

IEP team meetings were held and changes made to the student’s IEP in response to parental concerns throughout the 2007-2008 school year. IEP revisions were implemented as written. In between IEP meetings, there was on-going correspondence between district staff and the parent. Documentation provided by the district and the parent indicates the district made a good faith effort to respond to the parent’s questions, concerns, and requests. The student’s IEP was appropriately developed and implemented during the 2007-2008 school year and the district properly responded to the parent’s requests for IEP team meetings.

The parent asserts the district inappropriately shared confidential information with the district’s parent liaison when the liaison was asked to contact the parent and offer her assistance and when the liaison was included on the IEP team invitation. The district employs a Wisconsin Statewide Parent-Educator Initiative (WSPEI) parent liaison. One role of a WSPEI parent liaison is to provide support to families and educators as they work together to develop programs that improve outcomes for children with disabilities. Parent liaisons are trained to maintain student confidentiality in their work with families and districts.

The district first requested the parent liaison contact the parent during the fall of 2007 to offer support to the parent. The liaison contacted the parent one or two times to follow up. After receiving the parent’s March 3 correspondence indicating continued concerns with the student’s math services and how the district was addressing the concerns, district administration contacted the parent liaison to discuss the situation. District administration asked the liaison to help facilitate communication between the parent and district staff to help the IEP team better understand the parent’s concerns. The district also added the parent liaison to the upcoming IEP invitation in hope the involvement of the liaison would have a positive effect on the district’s relationship with the parent.

State and federal legislation permit district staff to share confidential student information without parent consent with persons employed by the district who have been determined by the school board to have a legitimate educational interest in the information. Under the circumstances described in this complaint, the district’s parent liaison met the criteria of having a legitimate educational interest in the information shared by district administration.

Following her last conversation with the parent, the liaison was asked to not contact the parent again. On March 11, 2008, the parent requested the district remove the liaison from the March 27 IEP invitation. Both requests were granted.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 5/16/08
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy