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IDEA Complaint Decision 15-017

On March 11, 2015 (letter dated February 19, 2015), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Frederic School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2014-15 school year, properly identified, located and evaluated a child with a disability.

School districts are required 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. The referral procedures must address referrals from school staff, parents, and others in the community. Districts have an obligation to inform parents of the procedures for making special education referrals. All referrals must be in writing, include the name of the student, and the reasons why the person believes the student is a student with a disability. The district is required to document and date the receipt of each referral. The district must accept and process all referrals submitted to the district.

During the 2014-15 school year, the student was open enrolled in the district named in this complaint. At the beginning of September of 2014, the parent and the classroom teacher exchanged email correspondences regarding the student’s needs. At this time, the student was not identified as a child with a disability in need of special education; however, the parent and staff discussed the potential benefit of an individualized education program (IEP) for the student. The teacher indicated that the student would need an IEP in order to receive special education services and the teacher stated that she was working on this process. The teacher did not explain to the parent that the parent had a right to make a special education referral nor did the teacher explain how to do so.

In the middle of September, general education staff met with the parent to discuss strategies and interventions to help the student. The parent brought documentation from the student’s psychologist and pediatrician to this meeting. District staff also did not explain the referral process to the parent at this meeting. On December 22, the teacher submitted a referral to the director of special education. On January 13, 2015, the director of special education processed the referral. On January 22, the district sent the parent notice of consent for additional assessments and on February 9, the district received consent for additional assessments. On February 20, before the evaluation process was complete, the parent withdrew the student from the district and the student returned to the resident district. The district forwarded all student records and any evaluation information to the resident district.

The parent discussed concerns regarding the child’s needs with the open enrolled school district on multiple occasions and the possibility of obtaining an IEP. Given this, the district should have discussed the referral process with the parent, including how to make a referral. Because the student is no longer enrolled in the school district, no student level correction is required. Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must submit to the department a corrective action plan to ensure parents are properly informed of the special education referral process and their right to make a special education referral.

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 5/6/2015
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support