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IDEA Complaint Decision 14-063

On December 17, 2014, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Mayville School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, in November 2014, properly responded to a parent’s request for a special education evaluation.

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 entire licensed staff to familiarize them with the district’s referral procedures. Referrals must be in writing, include the name of the child, and the reasons why the person believes that the child is a child with a disability. Any person, including the parent, who reasonably believes that a child is a child with a disability, may refer the child to a local educational agency (LEA). When a verbal request for a special education evaluation is made, the LEA must inform the person of the right to make a referral and how to make a referral. The district must accept and process all referrals submitted to the district. Within 15 business days of receiving a referral, the LEA must send to the child’s parents a request for consent to evaluate the child or notify the child’s parents that no additional data are necessary.

On November 21, 2014, the parent expressed concerns to a district staff member about her child’s academic progress and indicated she wanted to refer her child for a special education evaluation. The staff member explained to the parent the district’s process for making a referral. The staff member also suggested to the parent that the district could implement a regular education intervention and document weekly progress before proceeding with a special education evaluation, and this is what the staff member believed was agreed upon.

The district documented the agreement using the form titled “notice of response to an activity requested by a parent.” In completing the form, the box indicating that the request was refused was checked. In the portion of the form requiring the reasons for the refusal, it was stated that the parent agreed that the referral would be denied to allow time to implement an intensive intervention. However, the form also stated that once a sufficient amount of data was collected, the school team would determine the most appropriate option for the student. Through the use of this form, the district created the impression that a special education referral could be denied or refused. State law does not allow a LEA to refuse a referral for an initial evaluation.

The district has already begun implementing corrective action. If a parent agrees to wait to make a special education referral so that interventions in regular education may be tried, the district will follow-up using a letter confirming what was agreed upon. Included in the letter will be an assurance that the parent can submit a written special education referral at any time. The district will also provide administrative oversight of special education referrals and provide staff training on district procedures. The department finds this corrective action acceptable in addressing the issue in this complaint and no further corrective action is required. The district must submit to the department an example of the letter that will be used and the agenda and dates for the staff training.

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 2/4/2015
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support