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IDEA Complaint Decision 09-047

On June 17, 2009, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Milwaukee Public Schools. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, in June 2009, properly enabled a student with a disability to participate in a field trip.

An annual extracurricular incentive school field trip was scheduled for May 1, 2009. In April the student returned a completed field trip permission form with money. The field trip was rescheduled for June 5. The special education assistant scheduled to attend the field trip on May 1 was not able to attend on June 5. The special education assistant informed the special education teacher, during informal conversation a few days before the field trip, she was not attending the field trip.

On June 5, minutes before the buses were to leave, administrators were informed some students ready to leave on the field trip, did not have their names on the student list and the special education assistant was not going on the field trip. The two school administrators decided the student, who is the subject of this complaint, should not participate in the out-of-town field trip because lack of appropriate staff created a safety hazard. The administrator offered the parent the opportunity to participate in the field trip with her child. The parent was unable to participate with such short notice because of work-related responsibilities. The administrator refunded the field trip fee to the parent, and the student was provided educational services with his class and special education teacher on the day of the field trip. Two additional special education students who arrived at school to attend the field trip were not allowed to participate and stayed at school with the special education class.

The student’s individualized education program (IEP) for 2008-09 provides the student will be able to participate in extracurricular and nonacademic activities with nondisabled students. The IEP does not indicate any supports are necessary to assist the student in extracurricular and nonacademic activities participation. District staff stated additional resources, staff to provide supervision, would have been required if the students were permitted to attend. However, this is not a permissible basis for excluding students with disabilities from field trips. The student should have been allowed to participate in the field trip. Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the school district must submit a corrective action plan to ensure special education students are properly included in field trips.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 8/13/09
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy