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IDEA Complaint Decision 11-045

On November 10, 2011, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Kenosha Unified School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district:

In the spring of 2011,

  • Properly implemented the student’s individualized education program (IEP),
  • Utilized improper restraint procedures, and
  • Properly responded to parent concerns regarding meeting sensory needs.

And during the 2011-12 school year,

  • Properly implemented the student’s IEP.

The student is non-verbal and responds well to increased sensory opportunities. On September 24, 2010, the IEP team met to address the student’s physical aggressiveness toward other students and staff. The team also conducted a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and developed a behavioral intervention plan (BIP). Throughout the school year, the district conducted multiple IEP team meetings to review and revise the student’s IEP, consider placement options, and address parent concerns.

On March 2, 2011, the student kicked and spat at staff for an extended period of time. Staff tried redirection and used picture symbols, gestures, various sensory workouts, and offered a break as outlined in the IEP. When the student began to throw items, staff held up a mat to protect themselves. The student was not restrained.

Over the next few weeks, the student continued to show increased aggressive behaviors and staff decided to reconvene the IEP team on April 13, 2011, to review and revise the student’s FBA and BIP to address these issues. The team spent the meeting discussing options used to meet the student’s sensory needs including planned activities and the student’s menu of options.

In developing each child’s IEP, the IEP Team must consider the concerns of the parents in enhancing the education of their child. The student’s IEPs in effect during the 2010-11 school year included “fiddle or manipulative for use in group learning activities” and “sensory or movement breaks when the student requests a break or demonstrates increased sensory escalation.” The student uses a combination of gesture, sign language, and a communication board to choose a desired sensory workout from a menu of options. The parents suggested a number of items which were considered and discussed at the IEP team meeting and integrated as appropriate for the school setting. The district properly responded to parent concerns regarding meeting the student’s sensory needs.

The department has issued directives for the appropriate use of physical restraint in special education programs. These directives define “restraint,” in part, as the use of physical force to restrain the free movement of all or a portion of a student’s body. The complainant states the student was inappropriately restrained by being rolled up in a mat which was covered by a blanket and had a ball rolled on her. For a short period of time the district provided a sensory space with mats and a blanket. However, there is no evidence that the student was restrained in a mat or with a blanket. District staff states there were two sensory menu options available to the student at different times related to balls. At one point, the student’s sensory workout included a large exercise ball and the student was allowed to bounce on it and roll it around the room. It was removed because it was determined not to be appropriate for the school environment. Additionally, district staff occasionally provided sensory feedback by rolling a small rubber ball on the student while seated or laying down. This feedback was discontinued upon parent request. Both of these activities were student-directed, provided with constant staff monitoring, and did not impede the student’s free movement. The district did not utilize improper restraint procedures.

The IEPs in effect for the 2011-12 school year include “specials, lunch, recess, and self-care skills in the general education environment,” “scheduled or conditional sensory or movement breaks in general education and special education,” and “[district medical staff] would consult with staff regarding [student’s] Individual Health Plan annually, and if her condition changes.” Interviews with district staff confirm the time in the general education environment and sensory breaks were provided in conformity with the IEP. The student was always supervised by a staff member trained by district medical staff regarding the student’s specific medical needs. The student’s health plan was available to all staff working with her. The district properly implemented the student’s IEP during the 2011-12 school year.

This concludes our review of this complaint, which we are closing.

//signed CST 1/10/2012
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy