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IDEA Complaint Decision 08-056

On June 6, 2008, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against Eau Claire Area School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2007-2008 school year, properly responded to a referral for special education and properly informed the parent about the school district’s referral and evaluation procedures.

Since the fall of 2006, the parent maintains he had requested assistance of school staff on multiple occasions regarding his child’s learning difficulties. He states he may not have used the specific language for requesting a special education referral, but he requested assistance for his child. On March 15, 2007, a Section 504 accommodation plan was written and the parent was present at the meeting. In subsequent emails to staff, the parent stated the accommodations were not working for his child.

During department staff interviews with the district administration, the principal stated he met with the parent in July of 2007, and the parent asked him for an individualized education program (IEP) for his child. The principal referred him to the special education director. The special education director stated she spoke with the parent via phone on or about September 1, 2007. The director stated the parent initially asked that his child have an IEP and special education. The director explained the special education referral and evaluation process, and offered to send the parent a referral form. The director also clarified the differences between qualifying for a Section 504 accommodation plan and qualifying for special education services. During the course of the conversation, the parent never requested a special education referral form. Furthermore, the parent did not submit a written request for a special education evaluation at this time.

At the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year, the youth enrolled in the Wisconsin Virtual School (WVS). On June 2, 2008, the parent requested via email an IEP be established for his child and he explained why. On June 6, the director of the WVS emailed school staff and stated the youth had completed all coursework. On June 9, the principal emailed the parent and school staff stating the youth’s official date of graduation is June 9. The youth’s high school transcripts stated “Grad requirements met 06/06/08 Diploma Awarded.” On June 18, the youth received his high school diploma and on June 23, 2008, he received an official high school transcript.

All referrals shall be in writing and shall include the name of the child and the reasons why the person believes that the child is a child with a disability. Each district must also establish written procedures for accepting and processing referrals. The referral procedures must address referrals from parents, school staff and others in the community. Furthermore, within 15 business days of receiving a referral, a district must send to the child’s parent or, if applicable, the adult student a request for consent to evaluate. In this case, the parent, on June 2, 2008, submitted a written referral, and the district should have followed its procedures for accepting and processing referrals.

The department concludes that although the district properly informed the parent about the school district’s referral and evaluation procedures, it did not properly respond when the parent, prior to the child’s graduation, sent his June 2, 2008 written request for a referral for special education. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district must submit a corrective action plan that ensures all staff understand how to properly respond to a parent’s request for a special education referral. The district is also directed to initiate a special education evaluation for this student, which would include seeking consent for evaluation from the adult student. The district will inform the department of the evaluation results, and the department will then determine whether further corrective action of this complaint is warranted.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 8/4/08
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy