On April 6, 2015 (form dated March 31, 2015), the Department of Public Instruction (department) 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 2014-15 school year, properly reduced the student’s school day and properly changed the student’s placement.
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. Before deciding to shorten the student’s day, the IEP team must consider if there are other ways to meet the student’s needs. In addition, the IEP must include a plan for the student’s return to school for a full day as soon as possible. If a parent requests a change in the length of the student’s school day, the district must respond to the parent’s request. However, any changes to the regular school schedule must be made by the student’s IEP team, which includes the parent.
A behavior intervention plan (BIP) was developed for the student on October 31, 2014. The BIP described the student’s aggressive behaviors and included a goal to decrease the frequency of these behaviors by identifying triggers and watching for signs of heightened agitation or anxiety.
In December, 2014, the student’s mother and special education teacher had a meeting to discuss the student’s continuing behavior problems in the classroom. An agreement was made to reduce the student’s schedule to half-days for approximately a week prior to the winter break to see if this change would help the student’s behavior improve. According to the teacher, this was not an IEP team meeting nor was it noticed as an IEP team meeting. School staff said the mother signed a written agreement about the reduced schedule.
On December 18, the parent had a meeting with school officials to discuss when the student would return to a full-time schedule. In addition, school officials discussed their concerns about how to manage the student’s behaviors in the classroom.
School staff confirmed the student was on a reduced, half-day schedule from December 15 to December 23, 2014. The student resumed a full-time schedule after winter break in January, 2015. During January, the parents were called by school officials about the student’s behavior. The parents requested an IEP team meeting to address the situation.
On January 28, 2015, an IEP team meeting was held to determine the student’s continuing placement, to review and revise the IEP and to update the BIP. The BIP was reviewed to address the student’s increasing anxiety and resulting aggressive behaviors. A parent attended this IEP team meeting. The IEP team determined the student required a shortened day to address anxiety that greatly increased in the afternoon. The IEP team determined the shortened day would be for a limited time and planned to meet in March to discuss returning the student to a full day. The IEP team believed that a reduced day for a brief period of time would provide the student with a break to help alleviate the anxiety. The IEP was implemented on February 9, 2015. There was no change in placement. On March 26, 2015, the student’s parent enrolled the student in a different district.
The district improperly shortened the student’s day in December by not conducting an IEP team meeting. Proper procedures were followed when the school day was shortened in February; the decision was made through an IEP team meeting. The IEP team determined the student required a shortened day based on individualized disability-related needs, it was for a short period of time, and there was a plan for returning the student to a full day.
Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must submit to the department a corrective action plan to ensure appropriate procedures are followed whenever it proposes to shorten the school day of a student with disabilities. This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 6/5/2015
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support