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IDEA Complaint Decision 08-096

On December 26, 2008, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the School District of Washburn. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2008-2009 school year, failed to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) when a child with a disability had a significant number of school absences.

A school district must provide FAPE to each child with a disability. A district meets its obligation to provide FAPE to a child with a disability, in part, by providing special education and related services. When a child with a disability has a significant number of absences, the district has a duty to take timely action to provide the child FAPE. The district may modify the child's educational program or placement to address the absences. When a child is absent from school without an acceptable excuse on part or all of five or more days on which school is held during a school semester, the child becomes a habitual truant. A school district is required to notify the child's parent by registered or certified mail when the child initially becomes a habitual truant.

The district provided the department with the attendance record of the student whose education is the subject of this complaint. Between September 3 and December 26, 2008, the student was absent for 14 days. Eleven of these days were unexcused absences and three days were excused absences. The student has had one additional excused absence since December 26. The student became habitually truant on October 6, 2008. The district did not notify the parent by registered or certified mail when the student initially became a habitual truant and did not schedule a meeting to consider whether modifications were needed to the child’s program or placement to address the absences.

Upon receipt of the complaint, the district reviewed the issue raised in the complaint and acknowledged it did not appropriately address the student’s repeated absences. On January 9, 2009, the district contacted the parent to discuss the complaint and the student’s habitual truancy. A notice was mailed to the parent on January 22, 2009. This notice did not include all the elements required under state statute. However, the district has since met with the parent to further address the student’s habitual truancy. The student has attended school regularly since January 9, 2009. The district has also agreed to schedule an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting to consider whether additional special education services are needed to address the services missed due to the student’s truancy between October 6 and December 26, 2008, and to discuss whether any other changes to the student’s educational program are needed to address needs related to the student’s school attendance. The department accepts this student specific corrective action. The district is directed to provide IEP team documentation of the meeting by March 20, 2009.

Following receipt of the complaint, the district reviewed the attendance records of all enrolled students and has notified the parents of all habitually truant students. The district is in the process of reviewing local attendance policies and procedures for consistency with state requirements. Within 30 days of receipt of this decision, the district shall submit to the department a corrective action plan (CAP) to ensure the district:

  • completes its review of local attendance policies and procedures for consistency with state statutory requirements for compulsory school attendance,
  • properly enforces compulsory school attendance, and
  • timely considers if IEP program or placement modifications are needed for habitually truant students with disabilities.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 2/17/09
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy