On September 24, 2014, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Racine Unified School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues, which pertain to the 2014-15 school year, are addressed below.
In April 2014, properly reduced the student’s school day for the start of the 2014-15 school year
Students with disabilities must attend school for the same number of hours and minutes as non-disabled students, unless a student’s individualized education program (IEP) team determines otherwise based on a student’s unique, disability-related needs. When a student’s school day is shortened, the student’s IEP must include an explanation of why the student’s disability-related needs require a shortened day. Under most circumstances, a shortened school day should be in place for only a limited amount of time. The IEP team must meet more frequently than once a year to review the plan and to determine when the student is able to return to school full-time.
The student’s IEP in effect at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year was developed on April 4, 2014, following a reevaluation. At the time, the student was receiving all services in the student’s home. The IEP team discussed the student’s individualized needs and parent concerns, and addressed the student’s schedule for the following school year. The IEP team documented the student required a shortened day due to the student’s significant sensory process challenges and difficulty with self-regulation, even in familiar environments. The team indicated that even on a reduced schedule, the student would require a 15 minute sensory break for every three to five minutes of structured work. The IEP documented the IEP team would meet to review the student’s schedule no later than October 13, 2014, six weeks after the start of the school year. The IEP team properly reduced the student’s school day based on the student’s unique disability related needs, included this information in the student’s IEP, and documented the decision would be reviewed early in the school year.
Properly responded to a parent’s request for an IEP team meeting
A parent may request an IEP team meeting at any time. The district should respond to any reasonable parental request for a meeting to review the student’s IEP. The student’s IEP in effect at the start of the year called for a staffing to be held before the start of the 2014-15 school year to discuss the student’s transition to a new school and staff. On August 1, the parent contacted the district requesting information about the staff assigned to the student and reminding the district that a meeting should be held before school started to review the shortened school day. Between August 5 and August 28, several attempt were made to coordinate the parent’s and staff schedules, however no common dates were found. On August 13, the parent indicated if the suggested dates could not work, the parent could email staff to share information and concerns about the child’s needs. The district provided contact information to the parent on August 18, in lieu of a meeting. While a formal staffing was not held, the parent contacted staff by email and met with several staff prior to the school year during an open house on August 28. On August 29, the parent requested an IEP team meeting to discuss when the student’s school day would be increased and other concerns. In response, the district conducted an IEP team meeting on September 10, 2014. The district properly responded to the parent’s request for an IEP team meeting.
Properly responded to the parent’s request to increase the student’s school day and properly documented determinations made at an IEP team meeting
The district must timely respond to a parent’s request to a change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the student or the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE). When a shortened school day is no longer necessary, the school district must conduct an IEP team meeting to change the student’s schedule to a full school day.
The IEP developed on April 4, 2014, required an IEP team meeting be held to review the student’s shortened schedule no later than October 13, 2014. On August 18, the parent contacted district staff reminding them the student would be starting the school year on a reduced schedule and indicated the parent would like to increase the schedule fairly quickly. On August 20, the parent emailed district staff with suggestions and questions regarding the student’s schedule and programming for the start of the year. Staff responded the same day, thanking the parent for the information and indicated the need for more time to respond to the parent’s questions. The staff responded to the parent’s questions on August 27, indicating they could discuss the information further when they met at the open house on August 28.
The parent emailed the district on August 29, requesting an IEP team meeting to discuss increasing the student’s school day. The parent suggested the week of September 22. The parent sent another email on September 3, sharing additional concerns and requesting an IEP team meeting be held sooner. An IEP team meeting was held on September 10, 2014, to address the parent’s request and other questions and concerns about the student’s IEP.
On September 22, believing the student’s school day was increased, the parent shared the intent to send the student to school for an increased day, and indicated a willingness to attend another IEP team meeting if one was needed. On September 29, following several emails between the parent and district staff, the district clarified an IEP team meeting was required before increasing the student’s schedule as a final decision had not been made due to a need for additional information. An IEP team meeting was held on October 2, 2014, to discuss increasing the student’s school day. During the meeting, the IEP team considered the results of a functional behavior assessment (FBA), developed a behavior intervention plan (BIP), and decided to increase the student’s school day to full time starting on October 6. The district responded to the parent’s request to increase the student’s school day.
An IEP must be written so IEP team decisions are documented and the LEA’s commitment of resources is clear to the parent and all involved in developing and implementing the IEP. The parent asserted that the IEP team, following the IEP team meeting on September 10, 2014, did not properly document decisions about increasing the student’s school day and about the provision of close adult supervision.
The IEP developed during the September 10 IEP team meeting documented the parent’s request to increase the student’s school day and for one-to-one adult support. Information provided by the district and parent indicated there was discussion about the district’s definition of “close adult supervision” and an agreement that the IEP would be revised to reflect the decision that the student would receive constant close adult supervision. The district indicated it did not promise the close supervision would be provided by the same person for the duration of the school day, but there would be every effort made to limit the number of staff working with the student. The revised IEP included the present level statement “it is beneficial for the student to have a consistent adult,” and noted the student’s need for “constant adult supervision”, for some activities, “within arm’s reach.” The program summary included a supplementary aid and service of “sensory/movement breaks with adult supervision for all transitions within the classroom school 200 minutes per day, 5 days per week.” The IEP documentation was not sufficiently clear to reflect the IEP team decision that the student was to receive close adult supervision at all times during the student’s school day as discussed during the meeting.
During the September 10 IEP team meeting, the team also discussed the parent’s request to increase the student’s school day. Information provided by the parent and the district indicated there was discussion about the need for an FBA, concerns were raised by school staff that the student may not be ready for a full day, and there was agreement that the parent would contact staff during the week following the IEP team meeting to discuss how the student was doing and plan for increasing the school day. The team also agreed the student’s day could possibly be increased before October 13 (the date listed on the IEP in effect at the time of the meeting). However, available information regarding the IEP team’s final decision on this matter is unclear; the IEP did not include documentation of the IEP team’s conversation or the final decision regarding whether or not the student’s schedule would be increased, and if so, when. No changes were made to the IEP regarding this matter. The IEP team did not properly document decisions made at the September 10 IEP team meeting.
On October 2, 2014, another meeting was held to discuss the student’s schedule and review the IEP and determine placement. The IEP developed on October 2, properly documented the district’s decision to increase the student to a full day schedule. In addition, language regarding the provision of close adult supervision was clarified. No additional student specific corrective action is needed.
Provided the parent a revised copy of the student’s IEP
On September 13, after receiving a copy of the IEP developed on September 10, the parent shared concerns about the wording in the IEP regarding adult supervision and about decisions the parent believed were made about extending the student’s school day. The district responded on September 15, that wording changes regarding “close adult supervision” could be made without a meeting. The district did not agree to change the IEP regarding the student’s schedule, and following additional correspondence, determined another IEP team meeting was required to address this question as the parent and district did not agree on the decision the district believed had been reached. This meeting was held on October 2, and a copy of the revised IEP was provided to the parent on October 6.
On September 16, the district and parent agreed to revise the IEP to change the term “adult supervision” to “close adult supervision” to indicate an adult needed to be with the student for the duration of the student’s school day. When making changes to a student’s IEP without a meeting the district must develop written documentation to modify the student’s current IEP. A written document, Notice of Changes to an IEP without an IEP Team Meeting, was developed to reflect the change. It was attached to the existing IEP and mailed to the parent on September 17. The district provided the parent with a revised copy of the student’s IEP.
Properly implemented the student’s IEP
On August 28, after the open house, the parent contacted the district with additional concerns about staffing for the first day of school. On August 29, the district responded and assured the parent an education assistant would be provided as indicated in the student’s IEP, although the same assistant may not be assigned for the entire time. The district followed up with a memo to building principals reminding them of the obligation to provide “close adult supervision” as per student IEPs and that staff schedules must be set up so all student needs can be met. On the first day of school there was an education assistant assigned to the student’s class in addition to the classroom teacher. The special education teacher also spent a portion of the day in the student’s classroom. The assistant had been informed of her responsibility to provide close supervision of the student. There was one other student who required such supervision and there was a plan in place to bring in other staff if needed. Upon arrival at school, the parent was informed the student would not have a one-to-one aide assignment as the parent believed the IEP required. Another aide was assigned to the room in response to the parent’s concern, however it was explained the IEP did not specify the student required a one-to-one aide. This difference of understanding was discussed and resolved during IEP team meetings held on September 10, and October 2. The district provided close adult supervision for the child as per the student’s IEP in effect at the start of the school year.
The parent also asserted the district failed to provide specially designed instruction on several occasions during the month of September. The student’s IEP included 30 minutes daily of specially designed reading and math instruction in the general education classroom. The district acknowledged two sessions were not provided as scheduled because of conflicts with IEP team meetings and student testing. Information provided by the district indicated one session was rescheduled and the other was made up by increasing the student’s session the next day. No additional action is needed.
As of the date of this decision, all student-specific non-compliance has been corrected. Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must submit a corrective action plan to the department to ensure all IEP team decisions are properly documented and statements of services to be provided are written in a manner so the LEA’s commitment of resources is clear to the parent and all involved in developing and implementing the IEP.
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 11/21/2014
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support