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IDEA Complaint Decision 15-052

On August 27, 2015, and September 4, 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 complaint concerns two students. The issues are whether the district, in May 2015, properly documented determinations made at individualized education program (IEP) team meetings for the students, and in September 2015, properly implemented the students’ IEPs regarding the provision of special education.

IEP team meetings to conduct an annual IEP review were held consecutively for each student on May 13, 2015. Both students are deaf and use sign language as a primary mode of communication. The parents and students participated in both meetings. Meeting notes were taken on the district’s IEP forms and projected for all to see during the meeting. The students’ progress, current levels of performance and special factors were addressed. There was discussion about the need to focus more on transition and daily living skills. There was agreement both students continued to need specially designed academic instruction in reading, math, and written language, and an interpreter was required at all times; these services were documented in the IEP. There was also documentation of the parents’ desire for each student to have an individual interpreter and to offer a sign language club at the school.

It had previously been agreed, because of the students’ disability related needs related to deafness, that each student required direct service from a licensed teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing (DHH). The previous IEPs had specified 114 minutes of specially designed instruction provided by a DHH teacher in reading and written language. During the IEP team meetings on May 13, 2015, the parent questioned why the program summary in the IEP being projected did not specify these services would continue to be provided by a DHH teacher. The local education agency (LEA) representative indicated the district did not need to list specific staff assignments on the IEP and the services would be provided by qualified staff. There was some additional discussion, but no decisions were documented about either students’ need for DHH services and the degree to which the students would receive any services from a licensed DHH teacher was left unclear.

Training and licensure requirements for teachers of students who are DHH are different from other special education teachers. DHH teachers are trained to provide services designed to address the unique listening and language development needs of students who have hearing impairments. Most services are provided for students on an itinerant basis, working in collaboration with general education and special education teachers, as well as providing consultation when needed. IEP teams are responsible for determining the services required to address each student’s individual needs. The IEP developed on May 13, 2015, did not properly document IEP team decisions about the students’ disability related needs and no clear decisions were made by the IEP team about the DHH services required to address those needs during the IEP team meeting.

On June 8, 2015, the parent emailed the district to share concerns about the IEP developed on May 13, 2015. The parent indicated they believed there had been agreement that each student needed special education services provided by a DHH teacher and that this had been left out in the finalized IEPs. The district responded on the same day indicating the IEPs would not be changed and final staffing decisions would be based on whether the district could locate a second interpreter. The LEA indicated a DHH teacher would be working on an itinerant basis with students and staff to address the students’ needs.  

An IEP team meeting was held on August 21, 2015, to revise the students’ IEPs to address changes needed due to the transition to the next grade, to discuss the students’ schedules, and to determine continuing placement. During the meeting, the question was raised about the role of the DHH teacher. The LEA representative indicated each student would have an interpreter at all times and a DHH teacher would provide coaching to special education teachers who were qualified to provide the students’ specially designed academic instruction. The parents disagreed strongly with this decision and the meeting was ended before any changes were made to the students’ IEPs. While it was determined the DHH teacher would provide coaching and consultation to staff, the students’ IEPs in effect at the start of the 2015-16 school year was not properly revised to document this decision. In September 2015, the students received the services specified in the IEP developed on May 13, 2015. Staff consultation with the DHH teacher was started as discussed during the August 21 meeting.

The students’ IEPs were completed on September 30, 2015, to include 42 minutes of direct DHH services weekly and 15 minutes weekly of consultation between DHH and special education teachers. Parent concerns are documented. The revised IEPs include IEP goals and DHH services to address the students’ disability related needs. A meeting has been scheduled to discuss the parents’ continuing concerns about the students’ IEPs and the district has agreed to provide compensatory services. The district will send to the department, within ten days of receipt of this decision, documentation of the amount of compensatory services for each student and the plans for delivering such services. No district action is required because of the unique circumstances of this complaint.  

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 10/26/2015
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support