On October 28, 2014 (form dated October 8, 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 identified, located, and evaluated a child with a disability, and properly conducted an independent educational evaluation (IEE).
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 with a regular high school diploma. 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. A parent may submit a special education referral to the school district. Upon receipt of a referral, the district must appoint an individualized education program (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. It is not required that the review of existing data occur through an IEP team meeting. 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. 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.
On September 16, 2013, the school district received a special education referral for the student to be evaluated for special education services. During the review of existing data, academic concerns were expressed. The parent signed consent for the evaluation on September 20. The eligibility meeting was held on November 14. The parent attended the meeting and stated concerns in the area of reading comprehension, math word problems, and spelling. The IEP team conducted academic performance assessments, intellectual testing, and classroom observations to consider the areas of impairment in specific learning disability (SLD) and other health impairment (OHI). The student scored within average to below average on the intellectual tests and did not demonstrate inadequate classroom achievement or insufficient progress. From the medical reports provided by the parent the IEP team recognized the student had diagnosable health problems; however, the health problems did not result in limited strength, vitality, or alertness. As no concerns regarding behavior were identified during the review of existing data or during the IEP team meeting, the IEP team did not evaluate emotional behavior disability (EBD) as a possible area of impairment. The student had two disciplinary consequences prior to the November 14 eligibility meeting, but observational data collected during the evaluation time period by multiple staff members indicated the student demonstrated behaviors within age appropriate norms. The IEP team determined the student did not meet criteria for OHI or SLD. The district properly identified, located, and evaluated a child with a disability.
An IEE is an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not an employee of the student's school district. A parent has the right to an IEE if the parent disagrees with the district's evaluation. Upon receiving a request for an IEE, a school district must inform parents about where to obtain an IEE. The agency must also inform the parents of the district's IEE criteria. The district must respond to the request for an IEE in a reasonable amount of time by either providing the IEE at public expense or requesting a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate. The results of the IEE must be considered by the public agency.
On February 19, 2014, the parent requested an IEE, because the parent disagreed with the evaluation. The district properly responded to the parent on February 25, by providing the parent with the IEE polices and a list of potential evaluators. On March 10, the district informed the parent the evaluator selected by the parent had taken another job and would not be able to perform the IEE. On March 19, the parent selected a new evaluator. The evaluator was scheduled to begin testing on March 25, but was informed the student was absent from school. The district was on spring break from March 29-April 6. The student was absent from school from April 9-30. The student was then suspended in May and the district moved forward with an expulsion. The evaluator made multiple attempts throughout the month of May to contact the parent to set up an evaluation time at the administration office. Because the evaluator did not have access to the student, the evaluator relied on existing data in developing the report. Given the unique circumstances of this case, the IEE was not unreasonably delayed. An IEP meeting was held on May 28, 2014 to review the results of the IEE. The district made responsible attempts to provide the parent an opportunity to participate in the IEP meeting; however, the parent chose not to attend the meeting.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 12/19/2014
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support