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IDEA Complaint Decision 09-073

On November 11, 2009, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Superior School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2009-2010 school year, properly determined speech and language services and properly determined the student’s placement.

In February 2009, the student’s individualized education program (IEP) team met to conduct an annual review of the student’s IEP. The IEP team determined the student continued to require, as a related service, speech and language for 180 minutes per month. The IEP team further determined the student’s needs required that the speech and language services be delivered through both individual and group instruction. The IEP team made these determinations based on the student’s individual needs.

The IEP does not explicitly specify the services must be provided through both small group and 1:1 instruction. However, in describing the student’s present levels of performance with regard to communication, the IEP states “work continues on following directions during small group cooking tasks and during 1:1 structured activities.” During the February 2009 IEP team meeting, the team discussed the small group activity would be structured around cooking. Cooking was chosen as the group activity because it would provide a setting for speech and language group work that would help elicit natural conversations. The team noted cooking was also an activity that engaged the student’s interest, which allowed him to stay more on task. Because of the student’s dietary restrictions, it was noted the student would not be able to eat the foods prepared through the group activity but a substitute food option would be provided.

In September 2009, the student received speech and language services only through group instruction. The therapist providing the services did not attend the February 2009 IEP team meeting and was unaware individual instruction was required. During the month of September, the student received a total of 105 minutes of speech and language services. At the end of September, the parent expressed concerns the student was not receiving individual instruction. In October, the student began receiving services through both individual and group work. The student is being offered a substitute food item, and the parent is informed in advance of the weekly group activity.

An IEP must include a statement of services to be provided to the student, including the anticipated amount, frequency, and location of services. The statement must describe the agency’s commitment of resources in a manner clear to the parents, other IEP team participants, and staff who will implement the IEP. Although the district properly provided speech and language services through group work, individual services were not properly provided in the month of September because the student’s IEP was not sufficiently clear this was required. The district must, within 30 days from the date of this decision, conduct an IEP team meeting to revise the student’s IEP to ensure it is clear both individual and group work must be provided, and to determine whether compensatory services are required because of the failure to provide individual instruction and 180 minutes of speech and language services during September 2009. The district must submit a copy of the student’s revised IEP to the department.

During the February 2009 IEP team meeting, the IEP team also determined the student’s placement in the regular and special education environment. The student receives instruction in language arts, math, community skills, and health in a special education classroom, and receives instruction in band, physical education, and art in the regular education environment. The IEP team determined the student required some instruction in a special education environment because of his extensive needs, including the need for intensive small group instruction at his ability level, and that education in the regular education environment could not be satisfactorily achieved even with the use of supplementary aids and services. The IEP team determined the student could be in some regular education classes with modification of materials. The student receives all of his special education classes in one classroom, and the complaint states he should be allowed to move between special education classrooms. Classroom assignment is an administrative decision, and it is not part of an IEP team placement decision. The student’s placement was properly determined.

All noncompliance identified above must be corrected as soon as possible, but in no case more than one year from the date of this decision. This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 1/8/10
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy