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IDEA Complaint Decision 08-038

On April 8, 2008, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Janesville School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2007-2008 school year:

  • Properly included information from the parent in the child’s individualized education program (IEP);
  • Properly responded to parents’ concerns regarding student progress toward annual goals and involvement in general education environment;
  • Properly implemented the student’s IEP regarding staff consultation and provision of adult support during recess;
  • Properly enabled the student to participate in a school field trip;
  • Properly responded to the parents’ request for information regarding staff qualifications and training; and
  • Provided required special education services to a child with a disability utilizing properly licensed teaching staff.

The student’s annual IEP was developed during IEP team meetings on May 17 and June 1, 2007. Meetings to review and revise the student’s IEP were held on August 21, October 2, and November 19, 2007. On August 21, the IEP team revised the student’s schedule at the request of the parent to allow the student to attend a private half-day autism therapy program for the first three months of the 2007-2008 school year. The IEP team agreed to adjust the student’s schedule and revised the student’s summary of services. The student’s academic skills were at grade level. A combination of instruction with his peers, work sent home, and small group instruction to be provided by special or general education teachers was discussed as the best way to maintain the student’s academic progress. Special education and related services included speech and language, physical education, student check-in at the beginning and end of each school day, and occupational therapy.

An IEP team meeting was held on October 2, 2007. During the meeting, the parent submitted a written document and requested it be attached to the student’s IEP. The parental attachment included a number of questions, concerns, and requests related to the student’s educational program. The IEP team discussed the document and the parent’s concerns, including how items were, or would be, addressed. The district agreed to include a summary of the document in the IEP. The district did not agree to attach the parent’s document in whole. IEP documentation includes the summary. After receiving a copy of the IEP without the document attached, the parent again requested it be added as an attachment to the IEP. The district responded in writing, noting the contents of the document had been summarized in the IEP and a copy of the original document had been placed in the student’s file. While a district must consider the parent’s concerns when developing a student’s IEP, it is not required to attach to the IEP documents provided by the parent. The district properly responded to the parent’s request to include information provided by the parent in the student’s IEP.

There was on-going correspondence between the parent and the district about the student’s progress during the year. The complainant maintains the district did not provide sufficient information about the student’s progress toward IEP goals and participation in the general education program and did not share math materials as agreed by the IEP team. The IEP listed a number of methods for providing progress information to parent including quarterly reports, IEP conferences, parent teacher conferences, the use of a daily assignment book, and weekly progress reports. The parent received progress reports as noted on the IEP. Progress in the general education curriculum and on IEP goals was reviewed and discussed at IEP team meetings and parent conferences. On most days, the parent was sent a report of the student’s school day. This report included a rating of the student’s behavior related to the student’s IEP goals for specific periods of the day. The special education or general education teacher helped the student complete his daily assignment book which went home each day. On most days, the student did not have any outstanding assignments. The district appropriately provided information about the student’s progress toward IEP goals and participation in the general education curriculum and environment.

The parent’s concern regarding the student’s ability to keep up with the general education math curriculum was discussed during the October 2, 2007, IEP team meeting. Due to the student’s reduced day schedule, he missed reading and math instruction with his peers. In August, the IEP team agreed the student would receive reading instruction outside of school and would receive daily math instruction in the regular classroom while the other students in his class participated in other activities. No specially designed math instruction was added to the student’s IEP.

During the October 2 meeting, the parent requested the district provide additional materials for support at home, and the other members of the IEP team agreed. The parent did not receive the first part of materials until January 2008 and the district admits it did not provide all of the other requested materials. Thus, this IEP team agreement was not documented or fully implemented. The student is no longer enrolled in the school district so no student specific corrective action is required. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district must submit proposed corrective actions to the department to ensure IEP team decisions are properly documented and implemented.

The complainants further maintain the district did not provide needed consultation services and adult support during recess. The student’s IEP provides for consultation by the student’s case manager with staff new to the student for at least 30 minutes for three consecutive weeks, consultation between the occupational therapist and general education staff ten minutes per week and autism support by members of the district’s autism team 30 minutes per month. The student’s case manager met regularly with staff responsible for implementing portions of the student’s IEP, including staff responsible for providing adult support during recess. During initial meetings with staff new to the student, the case manager reviewed the student’s needs, strategies that worked with the student, and went over documentation that was maintained on a daily basis regarding the student’s behavior and participation in general education activities. Following initial consultation, the case manager had daily contact, through either written logs or meetings, with staff who supported the student during transitions and recess. Any changes to strategies to be used with the student were shared with staff by the case manager.

Documentation provided by the district verifies scheduled monthly building visits to the student’s school by the district contracted autism consultant. During the visits, open meetings were held for staff working with students with autism to share information and discuss strategies. One or more staff working with the student participated in these meetings. Two meetings with the district’s autism consultant were scheduled exclusively to discuss concerns and strategies specific to meeting the student’s needs. The parent was provided notes following these special meetings. School staff also had access to district autism team members on demand. The district’s autism team is made up of individuals who are specially trained to address the needs of students on the autism spectrum. Team members attend regularly scheduled meetings and professional development with the district’s contracted autism consultant. Documentation provided by the district indicated the student’s case manager and occupational therapist were members of the district autism team. These members worked directly with the student and regularly consulted with other staff who worked with the student. The district provided consultation services in accordance with the student’s IEP.

The student’s IEP provides for adult support during times of frustration and anxiety, including recess. The conditions under which supportive strategies were to be used were clearly defined and discussed regularly with the student’s case manager. Approximately 60 students in the same grade participated in the daily recess period. Two aides were assigned to monitor the students. One other student required specialized support during recess. The aides shared responsibility for monitoring the student’s status daily during recess and providing needed support. A daily log was completed at the end of each recess and was submitted to the student’s case manager. The parent alleges the student was not provided needed support as evidenced by a March 28, 2008, incident during which another child was injured by the student. Information provided by the district indicates a recess aide had been monitoring the student’s recess status on the day in question. Just prior to the incident, another child who had a history of negative interaction with the student had moved toward the student. The aide monitoring the student asked the other child to move to another area of the playground. This was a positive intervention that had been used successfully in the past. When the other child did not leave, the aide monitoring the student asked the other aide to escort the other child to another area of the playground. The incident occurred quickly during the exchange between the two aides. Neither aide saw the moment of the incident. Immediately following the incident, the aide went to the student and implemented supportive strategies. The student accompanied the aide off the playground without additional problem and was brought to his case manager. Disciplinary action was taken. While this particular incident was unfortunate, there is no evidence the district failed to provide needed adult support during recess.

During the 2007-08 school year, a full-day field trip was scheduled for all children in the student’s grade as part of the general education curriculum. On the date of the field trip, the student was still attending school half-days. Approximately two weeks before the trip, there was discussion about the student’s participation in the trip. District staff voiced concern about the student’s ability to participate and asked the parent to transport and accompany the student on the trip. The parent agreed. The day before the trip, the parent sent an email to the district expressing displeasure with the transportation arrangements noting she didn’t understand the staff’s concerns and felt the student was being singled out and discriminated against. The district did not consider the parent’s correspondence to be a request to change the plan for the trip since she said she would still transport the student. The district did not offer another option of transporting the student in response. On the day of the trip, there was confusion about the directions and time the parent was to meet the bus. The parent left the site before the bus arrived, and the student ended up missing the trip.

The student’s IEP in effect at the time of the trip provided he will be involved full-time in the general curriculum. The IEP revised on October 2 did not include any provision that would lead to limitations on field trip participation. No specialized transportation was indicated. While the district had the right to invite the parent to participate in the trip, it could not require the parent to do so. When the parent questioned the district’s concerns and voiced displeasure about being asked to transport the student, the district should have arranged for the student to ride the bus with needed adult support. Discussions with district staff verify they are aware of the requirements regarding the participation of students with disabilities in field trips. Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the school district must submit a corrective action plan to ensure all staff are reminded of this requirement.

On September 7, 2007, the parent requested specific information regarding the qualifications of staff assigned to work with the student and questioned whether staff were appropriately qualified. On September 28, the district responded in writing after conferring with district human resources staff. In the response, the district named all staff responsible for providing instruction and support to the student, assured the parent all teachers were appropriately licensed and met the qualifications under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB), and all aides met school district qualifications. A summary was provided of autism training made available to staff with a note that staff working with the student had participated in such training. The district provided the website address where the parent could look up the certifications held by the student’s teachers.

On October 2, 2007, the parent again requested information about staff qualifications including information the district is not required to and does not collect. The district did not maintain records that would have responded to the parent’s request. The information provided by the district on September 28, 2007, appropriately responded to the parent’s request for information about staff qualifications. Documentation provided by the district confirms staff working with the student are appropriately licensed.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 6/5/08
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy