On May 15, 2015, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the River Valley School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2014-15 school year, was required to conduct a manifestation determination and properly responded to a request for an independent educational evaluation.
A manifestation determination is required within ten school days of any decision to change the placement of a child with a disability because of a violation of a code of student conduct. On September 17, 2014, an annual IEP team meeting was held to review and revise the student’s IEP and determine placement. The student’s IEP team, including the parent, met again on March 19, 2015, to review and revise the student’s IEP and determine placement. The student’s placement was changed on March 19, 2015, to address the student’s disability related needs and was not a disciplinary change in placement. There was no decision during the 2014-15 school year to change the student’s placement because of a violation of the code of student conduct. The district was not required to conduct a manifestation determination during the 2014-15 school year.
A parent has the right to an independent educational evaluation (IEE) if the parent disagrees with the district's evaluation. Upon request for an IEE, a school district must provide the parent with information about where an IEE may be obtained and the district’s IEE criteria. The district must then ensure the IEE is provided at public expense without undue delay or must request a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate. The results of the IEE must be considered by the district. A district must ensure a reevaluation of a student with a disability is conducted if the district determines the educational or related services needs warrant a reevaluation or if the student’s parent or teacher requests a reevaluation. A reevaluation must occur at least once every three years, unless the parent and the public agency agree a reevaluation is unnecessary. A district is not required to evaluate a student more than once a year. A district must timely respond to a parent’s request for a reevaluation.
On September 3, 2014, the parent sent an email to the district requesting an observation and full evaluation by a specific outside agency to address the parent’s concerns about the student’s behavior and education program. The district responded by email telling the parent it would make arrangements with the outside agency. On September 10, the parent sent another email reminding the district of the request and clarifying the parent wanted the evaluation to focus on learning styles and behavior, and include assessments by an individual with expertise in autism. The parent did not indicate disagreement with the district’s most recent evaluation completed on November 11, 2013, and the district did not consider the parent’s request to be a request for an IEE. The district arranged for observations of the student by two individuals from the outside agency as requested by the parent. The observations were completed during the first two weeks in October. On November 3, 2014, the autism specialist who had observed the student met with school staff to share information and provide recommendations. The district did not initiate a reevaluation and no written evaluation report was completed. An IEP team meeting was not held at the time.
On October 21, 2014, the parent requested an outside evaluation by an agency to consider the student for a possible placement in a program run by the agency. The parent did not indicate disagreement with the district’s evaluation and the district did not consider the parent’s request to be a request for an IEE. The district arranged for the observation and on January 13, 2015, the outside agency submitted a report about the appropriateness for placement in the agency’s program. The district tried to schedule an IEP team meeting following receipt of the agency’s report. District staff had difficulty scheduling the meeting because of the need to coordinate the schedules of the parents’ and an outside specialist requested by the parent. An IEP team meeting was held on March 3, 2015. The meeting was continued on March 9, and March 19, 2015. The purpose of the IEP team meetings were to review and revise the student’s IEP and consider placement. The IEP team changed the student’s placement during the March 19, 2015 meeting.
The district timely responded to the parent’s requests to bring in outside specialists, but did not conduct an evaluation as requested by the parent. When the parent asked for an evaluation, the district should have responded by clarifying whether the parent was requesting a reevaluation or an IEE. Since receiving the parent’s complaint, the district has properly provided the parent with information about the district’s IEE criteria and where an IEE may be obtained. No additional corrective action is required.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 7/10/2015
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support