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IDEA Complaint Decision 16-030

On April 18, 2016 (form dated April 15, 2016), 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 2015-16 school year, properly evaluated a student to determine eligibility for special education and whether a district employee improperly disclosed personally identifiable student information.

School districts are required under state and federal special education law 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. All referrals must be in writing, include the name of the child, and provide the reasons why the person believes the child is a child with a disability. A district must accept and process all referrals submitted to the district.

A parent may submit a special education referral to the school district. Upon receipt of a referral, the district must appoint an individualized education program (IEP) team, and the IEP team must conduct a review of existing data to determine what additional data, if any, are needed to complete the evaluation. The student’s parent must be afforded an opportunity to participate in this review. It is not required that the review of existing data occur through an IEP team meeting. Within 15 business days of receiving the referral, the district must send to the student’s parent a request for consent for additional testing or notice that no additional testing is necessary. An IEP team meeting must be conducted to determine eligibility within 60 days after receiving parental consent for additional testing or notifying parents that no additional assessments are needed. The 60-day timeline may be extended when a student is being initially evaluated for a significant learning disability if the IEP team, including the parents, agree to the extension in writing.

On April 28, 2015, the parent sent an email to the district requesting that her child be evaluated for special education. In the email, the parent suggested waiting until the fall to complete the evaluation. The district did not respond to the email. The district should have responded to the parent’s request, and if the parent and the district agreed to wait until fall, this should have been documented.

On September 10, 2015, the parent made a written referral for a special education evaluation, and on that same day, the district sent to the parent a notice of receipt of referral and start of initial evaluation. The IEP team reviewed existing data and identified areas to be assessed, the names of multiple tests to be administered and the persons administering the tests. The district received parental consent for testing on September 18, 2015, starting the 60-day timeline for completing the evaluation. The evaluation was not completed by November 17, 2015. On November 30, 2015, the district requested to extend the timeline to complete the evaluation as the child was being evaluated for a specific learning disability and additional time for progress monitoring was needed. The parent agreed to the extension on December 10, 2015. The district must ensure when a referral for a special education evaluation is received, the evaluation is completed within 60 days of receiving parental consent, or if an extension is requested because the child is being initially evaluated for a specific learning disability, written consent for the extension is obtained before the 60-day time period expires.

On January 3, 2016, the IEP team met for the purpose of determining eligibility for special education. Although the parent did not attend the IEP team meeting, opportunity to reschedule the meeting was given, but the parent declined. According to interviews, medical information regarding the student was available during the IEP team meeting and considered, although not documented in the evaluation report. The evaluation report includes detailed results of multiple tests that were given, in addition to observations by teachers and related service providers. The team determined the student was not a child with a disability and was not eligible for special education. Documentation that the student does not have a specific learning disability or a speech and language impairment is included in the report. The IEP team also assessed and considered behavior concerns raised by the parent. On May 26, 2016, the IEP team reconvened to consider additional information from an independent educational evaluation and information from other sources. The IEP team again determined the student was not a child with a disability and was not eligible for special education.

Personally identifiable information from students’ education records may be disclosed without parental consent to school district officials who have been determined by the school board to have legitimate educational interests in the information. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review the information in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility. A school official may include a person serving on the school board. The parent filed a special education complaint against the school district and contacted a member of the school board. Following this contact, the school board member consulted with a district employee regarding the parent’s complaint. The consultation included discussion of personally identifiable information, however, the school board member had a legitimate educational interest in the information. The district employee did not improperly disclose personally identifiable student information. No action regarding this issue is required.

Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district is asked to send to the department a corrective action plan to ensure staff respond to parental requests for a special education evaluation, and allowable extensions to the 60-day timeline are appropriately obtained.

This concludes our review of this complaint. 

//signed CST 6/14/2016
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support