On April 16, 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 covering the 2014-15 school year are addressed below.
Properly notified the parent of the purpose of the individualized education program (IEP) team meeting
On August 26, 2014, an IEP team meeting was held to review and revise the student’s IEP and determine placement. The parent attended the meeting. The district sent the parent a written invitation before the meeting indicating the time, place, meeting purpose, and the IEP team participants. Two weeks before sending the invitation, a district staff member contacted the parent by email and phone to discuss the need for the meeting. There was additional email and phone correspondence before the meeting about special education program and placement options under consideration. The parent believed some information about the meeting was not shared and felt pressured to agree to a placement change to a less restrictive setting before the meeting. In an email correspondence before the meeting, district staff assured the parent no decision had been made and the reason for the meeting was to discuss the options, parent’s concerns, and make a final decision. The parent’s concerns and district’s response were documented in the IEP. The final placement decision was consistent with the parent’s request to not change the student’s placement. The district properly notified the parent of the purpose of the IEP team meeting.
Properly responded to the parent’s request for access to education records and properly shared information from special education records
The parents of a student with a disability must be afforded an opportunity to inspect and review all education records with respect to the identification, evaluation, educational placement, and the provision of a free appropriate public education to the student. This decision is limited to the complainant’s concerns regarding parental rights as they relate to education records as defined by state and federal special education law.
A school district must comply with a parent’s request to access education records without unnecessary delay and within no more than 45 days following the request. On January 17, 2015, the parent requested records of observations and documentation of the student’s response to specific situations including information about individuals who completed assessments, consents received, and all related communication about the student. On January 19, the parent amended the request to include all invitations and letters pertaining to the student sent to the student’s other parent and responses received in the prior seven months. The parent requested the information be provided within 10 days. The district responded on January 20, 2015, indicating due to the comprehensive nature of the request, it may need more than 10 days to fulfill the request, but would provide all requested information within the statutory 45 day timeline. The district indicated it was willing to provide additional copies of all IEP documents and progress reports previously sent to the parent. Following this response there was additional correspondence between the district and the parent attempting to clarify the parent’s request. The parent made a number of additional requests including a list of all types of files and records maintained by the district and copies of all emails between the school and the student’s other parent. On January 29, the parent clarified the parent did not need copies of IEPs and progress reports which had already been received. On January 29, and February 3, the district sent emails to the parent clarifying the district was not required to create new records to fulfill a parent’s record request. Records were provided to the parent on February 10, 2015 and the district sent an email to the parent stating it believed it had fulfilled the records requests. The parent responded the same day that the parent was satisfied with what had been received. An additional request for records was made on March 10, and was fulfilled on April 7. The parent believes the district withheld certain information when fulfilling the requests; however, there is no evidence the district withheld any information that would be considered an education record under state or federal special education law. The district properly responded to the parent’s requests for access to the student’s education records.
A school district must give full rights to either parent of a student unless the district has been provided with evidence of a court order, state statute, or legally binding document relating to such matters as divorce, separation, or custody that specifically revoke these rights. Wisconsin pupil records law provides that a parent who has been denied periods of physical placement with a student by a court order does not have the rights of a parent with respect to the student’s pupil records. This would include information such as IEP team meeting invitations, copies of the student’s IEPs and special education progress reports.
In August 2014, the complainant raised concerns about district staff sharing information with the student’s other parent. On August 15, the complainant informed the district that the other parent had lost the right to receive information about the student by a court order revoking the parent’s right to periods of physical placement with the student. The complainant noted another hearing was scheduled, and the complainant would provide an update. A copy of the court order was not shared with the district at that time. The district continued to share IEP related information with the other parent, believing the other parent had the right to receive such information. The other parent did not respond to the district’s contacts and did not attend the August 26, 2014, or January 19, 2015 IEP team meetings. The district continued to send IEP related correspondence to the parent until after January 20, 2015, when mail kept returning to the district as undeliverable and the district determined, despite their attempts, that the other parent could not be located. No educational record information has been shared with the parent since January.
The parent first shared a copy of a court order with the district on March 10, 2015. The order, issued in October 2014, affirmed the other parent had temporarily lost the right to periods of physical placement. Because the district was not previously provided a copy of the court order, the district did not err in providing information to the other parent through January 2015. The district properly shared information from special education records with both parents.
Properly responded to the parent’s request for extended school year services
Upon further review, the department verified the parent’s request and district’s response regarding extended school year services occurred more than one year before the complaint was filed. Under federal special education law, the department can not investigate an alleged violation that occurred more than one year prior to the date the complaint was received. Therefore, this issue was not considered as part of this complaint.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 7/10/2015
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support