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IDEA Complaint Decision 12-027

On May 18, 2012, 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, during the 2011-12 school year, timely responded to a request for an independent educational evaluation (IEE).

A parent has the right to an IEE at public expense if the parent disagrees with the district’s evaluation. Upon receiving a request for an IEE, a school district must inform parents about where to obtain an IEE. The agency must also inform the parents of the district’s IEE criteria. The district must respond to the request for an IEE without unnecessary delay. The district must either provide the IEE at public expense or request a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate.

On April 23, 2012, the district held an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting, conducted a reevaluation and determined the student was not a child with a disability. The IEP team also determined the student did not meet the criteria for eligibility in the areas of autism, speech and language impairment, and significant developmental delay. The student’s legal guardian, with a child advocate, attended the IEP team meeting.

On April 26, the student’s guardian requested both an IEE and a due process hearing because the guardian disagreed with the eligibility determination at the April 23, 2012, IEP team meeting. The district was prepared to defend the evaluation through the due process hearing. On May 11, a due process hearing resolution session was held. The district agreed to provide the IEE if the guardian withdrew their due process request. Although the district believed a resolution was reached, the guardian did not sign the resolution agreement. Between May 14 and May 21, district staff made numerous phone calls to the guardian to clarify the resolution and obtain the guardian’s signature. On May 23, a due process hearing pre-conference call was held and the guardian stated to the administrative law judge that she did not want to proceed with the due process hearing.

The district promptly, on May 25, 2012, made arrangements for the IEE to be conducted. A district staff member sent the guardian a letter titled “Authorization of Independent Educational Evaluation In Response to Parental Request.” In this letter the district states, “… you are entitled to an independent evaluation and the district will assume the associated costs.” In addition, the district authorized the IEE to be completed by the examiner the guardian requested and sent the guardian an authorization for release of information with a copy of the district’s IEE policy. Further, the district worked with the independent examiner’s office to expedite the IEE and an evaluation appointment was set for June 20. Although the district did not make these arrangements until May 25, 2012, this was reasonable given the due process hearing request and the resulting negotiations. The district responded timely to the parents’ IEE request.

This concludes our review of this complaint which we are closing. 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 7/10/2012
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support