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IDEA Complaint Decision 11-034

On September 12, 2011, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, in August 2011, properly changed placement for a student with a disability.

On June 14, 2011, an annual IEP team meeting was held to review and revise the student’s IEP, develop a transition statement, and determine placement for the following school year. The adult student and the student’s parent attended the meeting. The IEP team determined the student would receive special education services 180 minutes a day in a special education classroom and receive psychological services 10 minutes once a day. The June 14, 2011, notice of placement indicates these services would be received at the child’s current school building in a restart trade and technology high school.

On September 1, 2011, the adult student was sent a “Notice of Change to IEP without an IEP Team Meeting” form and a revised IEP indicating he would attend the trade and technology high school determined at the June 14, IEP team meeting. However, the change removed the student from the special education classroom environment and placed him full time, 180 minutes a day, in regular education classrooms with support from a special education teacher with the opportunity for pull out into a special education classroom for small group attention. An IEP team meeting was not held to determine the student’s change in placement.

On September 12, 2011, an IEP team meeting was held to review and revise the student’s IEP, discuss concerns of the adult student and parent, develop a transition statement, and determine placement. The adult student, the student’s parent, and the adult student’s advocate attended the meeting. The student’s IEP special education services were revised to specially designed math instruction 50 minutes a day in a regular education classroom, specially designed instruction in behavior 90 minutes a day in regular education classroom and specially designed instruction in literacy 90 minutes a day in a special education classroom to begin September 12, 2011.

In making changes to a child’s IEP after the annual IEP team meeting for a school year, the parent of a child with a disability and the local educational agency (LEA) may agree not to convene an IEP team meeting for the purposes of making those changes and instead may develop a written document to amend or modify the child’s current IEP. When making changes to a child’s IEP without an IEP team meeting, the LEA must ensure the child’s IEP team is informed of those changes. The LEA must also provide the child’s parent a copy of the revised IEP.

This exception to the IEP team meeting requirement does not extend to changes in placement. In Wisconsin, an IEP team determines the special education placement for a child with a disability. Placement does not refer merely to the building where the student receives the services. Placement refers to the environment in which the child is receiving the services. Removing the student from the special education environment and placing him in a regular education environment constituted a change in placement. No IEP team meeting was conducted August 31, 2011, to determine the child’s special education placement; and the student’s placement was changed without conducting an IEP team meeting.

While no child specific corrective action is required because an IEP team meeting for the student was held September 12 to review and revise the student’s IEP, discuss concerns of the adult student and the parent, develop a statement of transition goals and services, and determine placement, the district is required to take the following corrective actions:

  1. The district is in the process of implementing a previously developed corrective action plan to ensure all district special education staff who schedule IEP team meetings and district central office family services staff understand the requirements regarding changing a student’s placement and following required procedures when a child’s IEP is changed without an IEP team meeting. The district is further directed to include all school principals, school leaders, regional coordinators of specialized services, and special services supervisors in the corrective action training and distribution of communications. DPI staff will review communications and training materials before distribution of communications and before training is conducted. A DPI representative(s) will attend the training.
  2. By November 24, 2011, the district must review all changes made to high school students’ IEPs without a meeting, between August 1 and October 31, 2011, and determine if the changes made were changes in placement. For all changes in placement made without a meeting, the district must contact the adult student or parent/guardian and offer to hold an IEP team meeting if the adult student or parent/guardian would like an IEP team meeting to review and revise the student’s IEP and determine placement. If requested, these IEP team meetings must be conducted within 20 calendar days of the parents request for an IEP team meeting. By December 2, 2011, the district must provide the department a chart from each high school documenting the review of all changes made to high school students’ IEPs without a meeting including specific information for each student. DPI staff will assist district staff in the design of the chart and approve the chart design before utilization. Following completion of corrective actions for all high schools, DPI staff will conduct compliance verification.

All noncompliance identified above must be corrected as soon as possible, and no more than one year from the date of this decision. This concludes our review of this complaint. You may contact Janice Duff, Special Education Team, at (414) 227-1845 if you have any questions about this decision or for technical assistance.

//signed CST 10/27/2011
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy