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IDEA Complaint Decision 10-052

On July 6, 2010, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Verona Area School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2009-2010 school year, properly responded to a referral for a special education evaluation.

School districts are required under state and federal special education law to locate, identify, and evaluate all resident children with disabilities who have not graduated from high school. A parent may submit a special education referral to the school district, and the district must accept and process all referrals submitted to the district. Upon receipt of a referral, the district must appoint an individualized education program (IEP) team, and the IEP team must conduct a review of existing data to determine what additional data, if any, are needed to complete the evaluation. If the IEP team determines additional data are required, within 15 days of receiving the referral, the district must send to the child’s parent a request for consent to evaluate. An IEP team meeting must be conducted to determine eligibility within 60 days after receiving parental consent.

In March 2010, the parent submitted a written referral to the school district requesting her child be evaluated for special education. The student was to begin a new program, and district wanted to wait to conduct an evaluation until after his progress could be monitored for one full academic quarter. District staff was unable to contact the parent about the proposed plan, but sent a letter explaining why the district would like to wait to conduct the evaluation and informing the parent if she disagreed she should contact the district. The letter stated that after the full academic quarter they would consider whether an evaluation was warranted. The parent did not contact the district, but a few weeks later a parent representative contacted the district inquiring about the evaluation. The district, since this complaint has been filed, has conducted the evaluation and determined the student is not eligible for special education.

The district did not properly respond to a referral for a special education evaluation because it did not commence a timely evaluation after the parent made a written referral in March 2010. The district was under an obligation to initiate the evaluation upon receipt of the referral and could not rely on the letter as evidence that the parent agreed to withdraw her request for an evaluation. Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district must submit a corrective action plan to ensure district staff properly respond to a referral for a special education evaluation.

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 9/2/10
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy