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IDEA Complaint Decision 12-045

On September 17, 2012, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Raymond #14 School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, in the 2011-12 school year, properly conducted a special education evaluation and properly determined eligibility for special education.

In August of 2011, the student’s adoption was finalized and the student moved from Ethiopia to the United States. On September 4, the student began to attend a district 4K program. The district and the parent were uncertain of the student’s primary language and the student was nonverbal in the school environment. On October 12, a written referral from the parent was received by the district.  The Individualized Education Program (IEP) team members, including the parent, participated in the review of existing evaluation data. The IEP team decided to conduct additional assessments to consider the areas of speech and language impairment, cognitive disability (CD), emotional behavioral disability (EBD), other health impairment (OHI), significant developmental delay (SDD), and autism. On October 25, the notice and need to conduct additional assessments was sent to the parent. The district received consent to evaluate the student from the parent on November 1. On December 9, the IEP team, including the parent, met to determine the student’s eligibility. The IEP team considered a private evaluation provided by the parent and determined the student only met the criteria for SDD, but did not need special education as a result. On December 16, the district sent the notification of IEP team finding that the child was not a child with a disability.

School districts are required to locate, identify, and evaluate all resident students with disabilities who have not graduated from high school. Each district must establish procedures for accepting and processing referrals. All referrals must be in writing and the district must accept and process all referrals submitted to the district. Upon receipt of a referral, the district must appoint an IEP team, and the IEP team must conduct a review of existing data to determine what additional data, if any, are needed to complete the evaluation. The student’s parent must be afforded an opportunity to participate in this review. In addition, this review must include not less than one regular education teacher of the child, one special education teacher who has recent training or experience related to the child’s known or suspected area of special education needs, and a local educational agency (LEA) representative. Within 15 business days of receiving the referral, the district must send to the student’s parent a request for consent for additional testing or notice that no additional testing is necessary. The evaluation must be sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the child’s special education and related services needs. Assessments and other evaluation materials used to assess a child must be provided and administered in the child’s native language or other mode of communication and in the form more likely to yield accurate information on what the child knows and can do, unless it is clearly not feasible to do so. An IEP team meeting must be conducted to determine eligibility within 60 days after receiving parental consent for evaluation or notifying parents that no additional assessments are needed.

The district properly processed the referral within the required timelines, conducted a review of existing evaluation information with the appropriate team members, and provided a comprehensive evaluation. The IEP team considered the information available about the student’s native language and considered evaluating the student in an Ethiopian dialect and English; however, formal assessments were deemed inappropriate at that time because of the student’s nonverbal behaviors, and it was unclear to which Ethiopian dialect(s) the student was exposed. District staff used informal assessments from a variety of sources in order to determine whether the student had a disability and need for special education and related services. The district properly conducted a special education evaluation for the student.

Upon completion of the assessments and other evaluation measures, the IEP team shall determine whether the child is a child with a disability and the educational needs of the child. The IEP team must draw upon information from a variety of sources including aptitude and achievement tests, parent input, and teacher recommendations. The IEP team must ensure the information obtained from all of these sources is documented and carefully considered. The team may not determine a child is a child with a disability if the determinant factor for the determination is because the child has limited proficiency in English. The IEP team used information from a variety of sources including a specialty behavioral assessment from a private medical provider, information provided by the parent, previous interventions and the affects of those observations, classroom-based observations, and observations by teachers and related service providers.

The IEP team determined that the student met the criteria for SDD but did not have a need for special education as a result of the impairment because the student’s needs could be met in the 4K program. The LEA properly documented its eligibility decision consistent with state criteria. Language delays were noted but did not result in a speech and language impairment because the IEP team believed the delays were the result of learning English. The IEP team also considered the criteria for EBD, OHI, CD, and autism. There was proper documentation establishing the student did not meet eligibility criteria. The district properly determined the student did not qualify for special education services.

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

//signed CST 11/16/2012
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support