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IDEA Complaint Decision 16-037

On May 18, 2016, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Racine Unified School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2015-16 school year, provided required special education services utilizing properly licensed staff, timely provided the parent a copy of the student’s individualized education program (IEP) and properly responded to a parent’s request to change the student’s placement.

Each school board must ensure every teacher, aide, or other professional staff holds a valid certificate, license, or permit issued by the department for the position for which the individual is employed. Special education services must be provided by properly licensed special education teachers. The special education teacher providing special education services identified by the complainant held an appropriate department license valid for the 2015-16 school year. The district provided special education services utilizing a properly licensed special education teacher.

In Wisconsin, a student’s placement must be determined by the IEP team. In making this determination, IEP teams must ensure to the maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities are educated with students who are nondisabled. Placement decisions must be determined on an individual case-by-case basis depending on each student’s unique educational needs and circumstances and based on the student’s IEP. Placement does not refer merely to the school/building where the student receives the services, but also to the environment in which the student is receiving the services. Following the development or revision of the IEP and prior to the implementation of the services described in the IEP, the student’s parents must receive written notice, including a copy of the student’s IEP, a reasonable time prior to its implementation.

Parents may request an IEP team meeting at any time. A school district should grant any reasonable parent request for an IEP team meeting. A district must respond to a parent’s request for an IEP team meeting by either scheduling the IEP team meeting at a mutually agreed on time and place or providing written notice to the parent including an explanation of why the district has determined a meeting is not needed.

On January 14, 2016, an IEP team meeting was conducted to develop an annual IEP and determine placement. The notice of placement indicates the parent was provided the written notice of placement, including a copy of the student’s IEP, on January 14 with a projected date of implementation of January 25. However, the parent indicated the IEP was not received until the June 1, 2016 IEP team meeting, and then only after the parent requested a copy. Several district staff members confirmed the parent was not provided the notice of placement and a copy of the IEP at the meeting on January 14. The student’s parents did not receive written notice, including a copy of the student’s IEP, a reasonable time prior to its January 25, 2016 implementation.

After the January 14 IEP team meeting, the student’s parent continued to have concerns about the interventions for the student’s behavior and requested the student’s teacher be changed or the student’s placement be changed. Between January and May, the parent requested the district change the student’s placement. Although an IEP team meeting was held on April 11, 2016, to discuss the student’s occupational therapy evaluation, the parent’s concerns about the student’s placement were not addressed at that IEP team meeting. In response to the parent’s requests regarding the student’s placement, the district should have scheduled an IEP team meeting for the purpose of reviewing the student’s placement or provided written notice to the parent including an explanation of why the district was denying the parent’s request. On June 1, 2016, after the parent filed this complaint, the district conducted an IEP team meeting to review and revise the IEP, and changed the student's placement for the 2016-17 school year. No student specific corrective action is required at this time.

Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district must develop a corrective action plan to ensure the district properly responds to requests for IEP team meetings and to ensure parents receive written notice, including a copy of a student’s IEP, a reasonable time prior to implementation of the IEP.

All noncompliance identified above must be corrected as soon as possible, but in no case more than one year from the date of this decision. This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 6/27/2016
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support