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IDEA Complaint Decision 14-001

On January 18, 2014, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the XXXXX School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2013-14 school year, properly conducted a special education evaluation.

On February 15, 2012, a district staff member referred the student for a special education evaluation. The district conducted a review of existing data to determine if additional testing was required. The parents had the opportunity, but did not participate in this review. District staff determined that additional assessments were needed, and sought consent from the parents. The parents declined to provide consent, and as permitted under federal law, the district filed a due process complaint seeking to override the lack of consent. The parties ultimately entered into a resolution agreement, and the due process complaint was dismissed.

As part of the resolution agreement, the parents agreed to specific assessments conducted by an outside evaluator. The agreement specified the testing was to be completed prior to the start of the 2013-14 school year. The testing was completed, but the evaluator, in his report, recommended additional testing in the area of language. Through an e-mail, the district asked the parents for consent to this additional testing, and the parents responded by saying they did not give consent and referred to the resolution agreement as defining the exact tests that were agreed upon.

The IEP team met to determine eligibility, and district staff, based on a review of existing data, determined that the student met criteria for speech and language impairment and determined the student was a student in need of special education services. The parents disagreed with this determination. After the meeting to determine eligibility, the speech and language pathologist conducted a formal diagnostic test in the area of language. The test was administered to gather additional information regarding present level of performance. The parents did not provide consent for this test.

The district did not err in relying on the February 15, 2012 referral, in evaluating the student for special education. The evaluation was delayed, because of the specific provisions in the resolution agreement the parties agreed upon. In making the eligibility determination, the district properly relied upon the results of the agreed upon assessments and existing data, which included classroom teacher observations.

The district should not have administered the formal diagnostic language test. Districts are responsible for determining the tests required for a special education evaluation, and parents, when they provide consent, provide consent for the entire evaluation. Parents, under special education law, cannot select which tests will be administered. In this case, though, there was a resolution agreement which specified the exact tests agreed upon, and further specified that the testing would be completed prior to the start of the 2013-14 school year. The language test administered after the beginning of the school year was not part of the resolution agreement. Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district must submit a corrective action plan to ensure that resolution agreements are properly followed.

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.

//signed CST 3/7/2014
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support