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IDEA Complaint Decision 11-019

On March 18, 2011, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, in March 2011, scheduled an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting at a mutually agreed upon time.

On Thursday, March 3, 2011, a message was left on the parent’s phone regarding an IEP team meeting to be held Monday, March 7. On Friday, March 4, an invitation to the Monday, March 7 IEP team meeting was mailed to the child’s parent. The invitation states the purpose of the meeting is to review and revise the student’s IEP and determine continuing placement. The invitation did not designate manifestation determination as a purpose. The district invitation includes a statement that if for any reason the parent is unable to attend the meeting they offer the opportunity to participate by other means including but not limited to rescheduling the meeting if timelines allow, individual or conference telephone call, sending the parent an advance draft IEP for parent input, and scheduling a staff/parent conference prior to the IEP meeting for parent input. On March 3, the parent left on a vacation until March 8. Because she was out of state, she did not receive the meeting notice and did not know when the meeting was scheduled. Before leaving on vacation, the parent notified school administrators she would be out of state.

On March 7, the parent was called at the start of the IEP team meeting and asked if she could participate by phone. The parent was not able to participate by phone at that time, or later in the day or week as suggested by the district. The parent requested that the meeting be held after she recuperated from a surgical procedure scheduled March 9. The district could have accommodated the parent’s request and still met applicable timelines for manifestation determination.

The meeting was conducted March 7, without the parent’s participation, to review and revise the student’s IEP, determine continuing placement, and conduct a manifestation determination. The team determined the student’s behavior was not a manifestation of the student’s disability and changed the student’s placement.

On March 21, 2011, an IEP team meeting was conducted to review and revise the student’s IEP, develop a behavior intervention plan, and determine placement. The child, the child’s parent, and a parent advocate attended the IEP team meeting. The IEP team meeting was scheduled at a mutually agreed upon time and the child’s parent was properly notified of the IEP team meeting.

The district must take steps to ensure the parents of a child are present at an IEP team meeting or are afforded the opportunity to participate. The district must notify the parents of the meeting early enough to ensure they have an opportunity to attend and schedule the meeting at a mutually agreed upon time and place. They must also provide the notice of the purpose of the meeting. If the child’s parents are not able to attend, the district must use other methods to ensure parent participation, including individual or conference telephone calls.

Given the circumstances, the district’s attempts to notify the parent were not early enough for the parent to either attend the meeting or request the meeting to be rescheduled at a convenient time and place. The district did not take steps to schedule the child’s IEP team meeting at a mutually agreed upon time and did not properly notify the child’s parent of the IEP team meeting. In addition the district did not notify the parent that a manifestation determination was a purpose of the meeting. Within 30 days, the district must submit a proposed corrective action plan to ensure IEP team meetings following a central office discipline hearing are scheduled at a mutually agreed upon time and parents are properly notified of the IEP team meeting and its purpose. No child specific corrective action is required because the disciplinary action has been expunged.

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 5/13/11
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy