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IDEA Complaint Decision 10-063

On September 15 and October 13, 2010, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received complaints under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against Milwaukee Public Schools. This is the department’s decision regarding these complaints. The issues are whether the district, in the spring and fall of 2010, properly responded to a parent’s request for an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting and whether the district in the fall of 2010 properly determined placement for a student with a disability.

The parents of a child with a disability have the right to request an IEP team meeting at any time, and districts must grant any reasonable parent request. If the district refuses to convene an IEP team meeting, the district must provide written notice to the parents of the refusal, including an explanation of why the district has determined that conducting the meeting is not necessary.

During the spring of 2010, the parent requested an IEP team meeting of school staff. On March 15, April 19, May 10 and May 26, 2010, IEP team meetings were conducted. The district properly responded to the parent’s request for an IEP team meeting in the spring of 2010. In August and early September 2010, the parent informed school staff she would not send her child to the placement determined at the May 26th IEP team meeting because she had safety concerns and requested an IEP team meeting to change placement. On October 4, and October 8, IEP team meetings were held to consider the parent’s request. By delaying until October 4, the district did not properly respond to the parent’s requests for an IEP team meeting. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district must provide the department with a corrective action plan to ensure that staff members properly respond to parent requests for IEP team meetings.

The child’s mother attended the October 4, 2010 IEP team meeting. The team discussed a number of schools for the student’s placement and set a tentative IEP team meeting for October 8, 2010, to finalize placement after the special education leadership liaison checked the school sites for availability. On October 8, 2010, the district conducted another IEP team meeting. The child’s mother participated in the IEP team meeting by telephone. The IEP team determined the student’s placement would be at a school considered during the October 4 IEP team meeting. The IEP specified that the student would attend the new school beginning October 12. On October 11, district staff left the parent a phone message informing the parent that student services staff had informed her the student could not attend the new school because space was not available, and the student must remain at his current school.

An IEP team must determine the special education placement, including the school building, for a child with a disability. The placement decision must be made based on the child’s IEP and individualized needs. Although the student’s placement was properly determined at the October 8th IEP team meeting, the placement was improperly changed by student services staff after that date. On October 14 and 20, the parent and the parent’s advocate met with district and school level administration, and it was agreed that the student’s placement, as determined at the October 8th IEP meeting, would be implemented. Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district must develop a corrective action plan to ensure placement decisions are made by IEP teams based on the student’s IEP and not unilaterally changed.

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/AJC 11/15/10
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy