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IDEA Complaint Decision 08-085

On August 18, 2008, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from xxxxx against the School District of La Crosse. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district properly provided special education and related services during the spring and fall of 2008, properly provided access to the general curriculum during the spring of 2008, and properly reviewed and revised the student’s individualized education program (IEP) during the 2007-2008 school year.

On April 4, 2008, the student was engaged in an altercation which resulted in a three day suspension. As a result of the altercation, a no contact order was issued regarding two other students. The student returned to school after the three day suspension. On April 29, the student was arrested for violation of the no contact order. A new no contact order was issued specifying the student was to have no contact with the school of attendance. On May 1, 2008, the parent contacted the district to discuss other placement options. School staff discussed an option which they believed would be best because it would still allow the student to graduate with a regular high school diploma. The parent wanted to consider other options.

An IEP team meeting was held on May 7, 2008. At the meeting, the IEP team determined an alternative school was the appropriate placement for the student, and the placement would begin on May 12, 2008. However, the student did not begin attending the alternative school until May 21, 2008, because of hospitalization. During this time, the principal from the student’s previous school contacted the former teachers to determine if the student could receive grades based on the course work the student previously completed. The teachers indicated in all but two of his courses this was possible.

On May 21, 2008, the student began attending the alternative school. The alternative school contacted the student’s previous school for homework, which was provided. The student attended the alternative school for four days and then was arrested. On May 29, 2008, the parent contacted the principal of the student’s previous school and they discussed the alternative school would be the best placement option for the 2008-2009 school year, and the student could fulfill the requirements of the remaining two classes the next year. The student did not return to school for the remainder of the school year.

On August 27, 2008, an IEP team meeting was held. The IEP team agreed the student would begin the school year at the alternative school, but his placement options would be reviewed quarterly. The IEP team also determined the student would complete one course from the previous year through a computer based program he would access at home. The student did not have access to this program until September 19, 2008, because of technological problems.

From the beginning of May 2008 until the end of the school term, other than the four days the student attended the alternative school, the student did not receive any special education or related services or access to the general curriculum. During this period of time, even when he was incarcerated and hospitalized, the facilities were located within the School District of La Crosse, and the student remained a resident of the school. The department acknowledges the efforts the district made to ensure the student receive credits for his coursework. However, when the district was informed the student was unable to attend school, the district should have reconvened an IEP team meeting to review and revise the IEP, if necessary, to ensure the student continued to receive educational services. If the IEP team determined the student was unable to receive education services because of his health, this should have been documented. Furthermore, the district should have ensured the student had access to the computer-based program at the beginning of the school year.

The district must conduct an IEP team meeting by January 15, 2009, to determine whether additional services are required because of the failure to provide educational services during May and June of 2008 and for the delay in access to the computer-based program in September 2008. By January 25, 2009, the district must provide documentation to the department that additional services were considered. The district must also, within 30 days from the date of this decision, develop a corrective action plan to ensure an IEP team meeting is convened to ensure students continue to receive services when they are unable to attend school.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST/SJP 12/15/08
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy