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IDEA Complaint Decision 13-061

On November 13, 2013, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Appleton Area School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, beginning on November 13, 2012, properly developed an individualized education program (IEP) to address the unique needs of a student with a disability, properly implemented the student’s IEP, properly considered information provided by the parent, and properly followed special education disciplinary requirements.

Properly developed an IEP to address the unique needs of a student with a disability and properly considered information provided by the parent

An IEP is a written statement for a student with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised during an IEP team meeting. Each student’s IEP must include a statement of the student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, including how the disability affects the student’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum; measurable annual goals designed to meet the student’s disability related needs to enable the student to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; a description of how progress toward meeting annual goals will be measured; and when periodic reports on the progress will be provided to the parent. Each student’s IEP must also include a statement of the special education, related services, supplementary aids and services, and program modifications or supports for school staff based on each student’s unique needs and an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the student will not participate with nondisabled peers in the regular class and other school activities.

On April 15, 2013, the IEP team met to address the student’s academic performance. The IEP team considered the concerns and unique needs of the student to develop the IEP. The statement of present level of academic achievement and functional performance detailed the student’s specific difficulties, successes, and needs related to writing, math, and organizational skills.  The IEP team developed goals related to writing, math, and organizational skills, and included specialized instruction and academic support for science and math in the regular education environment and instruction in the special education environment. In addition to the extended time for tests, assignment notebook checks, break times, and broken down assignments, the IEP team revised the supplementary aids and services to include modified assignments, daily assignment worksheets, and tests read orally in an alternate environment. On April 19, the parent provided the IEP team with information from an outside evaluation. When the IEP team met on May 14, the IEP team considered the concerns and information provided by the parents when reviewing and revising the IEP.  The IEP increased the special education amount and frequency to include a pull-out setting for social studies, communication arts, health, and resource classes.  The IEP team also added teamed math and science classes for 15 minutes per week. The district properly developed the student’s IEP to address the student’s unique needs and properly considered the information provided by the parent.

Properly implemented the student’s IEP

The student’s IEP in effect for the 2013-14 school year includes supplementary aids and services specific to break times, broken down assignments, tests read orally, modified work, and positive praise. The frequency is described as “when long term assignments are given” and “on assignments that are not at the student’s independent level (as demonstrated through daily assessment of the learning objectives).”  Interviews with district staff indicate that all staff did not consistently implement the student’s IEP regarding modified assignments. Some staff members were unaware that assignments were required to be modified when the assignments were longer term or not at the student’s independent level. School districts must ensure that each regular education teacher, special education teacher, related services provider, and any other service provider who is responsible for the implementation of a child’s IEP is informed of his or her specific responsibilities related to implementing the child’s IEP and the specific accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided for the child in accordance with the child’s IEP.  The district did not consistently implement the student’s IEP.

Properly followed special education disciplinary requirements

A manifestation determination is required within 10 school days of any decision to change the placement of a child with a disability because of a violation of a code of student conduct. In determining whether the conduct was a manifestation of the student’s disability, the LEA, the parent, and relevant member of the student’s IEP team (as determined by the parent and the LEA) must review all relevant information in the student’s file, including the student’s IEP, any teacher observations, and any relevant information provided by the parents. On October 1, 2013, the student engaged in a behavior that was a violation of the school’s drug and alcohol policy. The student was immediately put on a five day suspension. On October 7, an IEP team meeting was held to conduct a manifestation determination. The student, the student’s parents, the student’s social worker, special education teacher, associate principal, a general education teacher, and assistant director of special education attended the IEP meeting. The IEP team considered all relevant information and determined the student’s behavior, which was subject to disciplinary action, was not a manifestation of the student’s disability.  On October 7, an expulsion hearing was held and it was decided that the district would not move forward with an expulsion. On October 9, an IEP team meeting was held and the team determined the student would receive services at the district’s alternative school until the end of the first semester. The district properly followed special education disciplinary requirements.

Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must conduct an IEP team meeting to determine whether compensatory services are required as a result of the district’s failure to implement the student’s IEP.  Within five days from the date of the IEP team meeting, the district must submit to the department a copy of the IEP and documentation of the discussion around compensatory services.

In addition, within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must submit a corrective action plan to the department to ensure that the staff responsible for implementing student’s IEPs are informed of their specific responsibilities.

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 1/9/2014
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support