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IDEA Complaint Decision 14-019

On April 7, 2014, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) 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, properly reviewed and revised the individualized education program (IEP), and properly implemented the student’s IEP.

School districts are required under state and federal special education law to locate, identify, and evaluate all resident students with disabilities who have not graduated from high school. Each district must establish written procedures for accepting and processing referrals, and provide information and in-service opportunities to its licensed staff to familiarize them with the district’s referral procedures. A parent may submit a special education referral to the school district. Referrals must be in writing, include the name of the child, and the reasons why the person believes the child is a child with a disability.

On April 18, 2013, the parent e-mailed district staff asking the student to be evaluated for special education. District staff requested more information and in a second e-mail exchange on the same day, the parent provided the student’s name and the reasons she believed the child was a child with a disability. On June 3, 2013, the parent spoke with district staff, and at that time, a special education evaluation was started. On August 7, 2013, the parent provided consent for additional testing and the student was determined eligible for special education on September 26, 2013. The department acknowledges communication difficulties between the parent and the district; however, the district should have started the special education evaluation once all of the required elements of a referral were provided by the parent on April 18, 2013.

The IEP developed on October 3, 2013, included a goal that the student would reach the 25th percentile on a nationally normed math fact fluency measure, and maintain that percentile for at least four weeks. Direct instruction in math fact fluency was provided as specified in the IEP. The IEP also included a goal that the student would complete an assignment notebook at the end of each school day, bring homework and the notebook home, and return completed work and the assignment notebook four out of five days per week for at least four weeks. Instruction in organizational skills was provided in accordance with the IEP. On November 15, 2013, the IEP team reviewed the student’s IEP; reviewed information, including student progress relating to math and organizational skills; and determined the goals had been met and dismissed the associated IEP services. The IEP team properly reviewed and revised the student’s IEP.

The IEP contained a special education service for direct instruction in self-advocacy and disability awareness for fifteen minutes two times per week. Interviews confirmed this service was implemented and the student has begun to articulate needs and request coping strategies introduced as part of this instruction.

The IEP also included supplementary aids and services of light filters in the regular education environment; time to complete homework at school the next day “when mom reports homework was a problem at home;” and a member of the IEP team “going to the student’s house to help alleviate the anxiety of coming to school when the student is tardy (more than 30 min) and/or absent two out of five days per week.” These statements do not clearly describe the circumstances under which the services would be provided and do not provide a clear commitment of district resources. District staff acknowledges that light filters were not provided on every light in the student’s regular education classroom. Since the complaint was filed, light filters have been placed on each working light in the student’s regular education classroom.

Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must convene an IEP team meeting to revise the student’s IEP to ensure supplementary aids and services are written clearly, and to consider compensatory services for the delay in the special education evaluation. The district must submit a copy of the revised IEP with documentation of the consideration of compensatory services to the department within 10 days of the IEP team meeting. Additionally, the district must, within 30 days of the date of this decision, submit a corrective action plan to ensure special education referrals are timely acted upon, services are clearly described, and IEPs are fully implemented.

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 6/5/2014
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support