On May 31, 2016 (letter/form dated May 25, 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 issue is whether the district, during the 2015-16 school year, properly responded to a request for a special education evaluation.
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. Each district must establish written procedures for accepting and processing referrals and provide information and in-service opportunities to its entire licensed staff to familiarize them with the district’s referral procedures. Referrals must be in writing, include the name of the student, and the reasons why the person believes that the student has a disability. Any person, including the parent, who believes that a student may have a disability may refer the student to the school district. Under Wisconsin law, the district must accept and process all referrals submitted to the district. Upon receiving a referral, the district must appoint an individualized education program (IEP) team, including the student’s parent. The IEP team must review existing data to determine whether additional assessments are needed as part of the evaluation. Within 15 business days of receiving a referral, the district must send to the student’s parent either a request for consent to administer additional assessments or notify the child’s parents that no additional assessments are necessary.
In March 2016, the student’s parent presented to the district a letter (dated March 16, 2016) from the student’s physician stating the student had experienced two head injuries, one in October 2015, and another in February 2016. The physician described the student as experiencing significant concussion symptoms as a result of the head injuries. Consequently, the student was having difficulty attending school and was often absent. While the physician expected the student’s symptoms to improve, the physician expressed concern about the student’s current ability to perform well at school and therefore recommended accommodations for the remainder of the school year. The physician also stated in his letter that the student’s symptoms seemed severe enough to be considered for an IEP.
On April 14, 2016, the parent spoke with the school psychologist/director of special education about the student’s needs and the physician’s concerns. The director followed up the phone call with a letter to the parent in which the director states, “The district has no reasonable basis for suspecting that in addition to the temporary health needs addressed in [the student’s] individualized health plan, that [the student] also has a special education educational disability.” On April 18, 2016, the district administrator received a letter from the parent in which the parent expressed concerns and again cited the doctor’s opinion that the student may need an IEP. The parent indicated disappointment that the district had developed an individualized health plan instead of evaluating the student for special education. Both the student’s parent and the physician expressed in writing that the student may have a disability and need an IEP, including providing the student’s name and supporting reasons. The district did not properly respond to a request for a special education evaluation.
The district is required to immediately send to the parent notice of receipt of the referral for special education and initiate an evaluation of the student to determine if the student has an impairment and needs special education. The district must provide the department with a copy of this notice. In addition, within 30 days of this letter, the district must submit a corrective action plan to the department, including a plan to review the district’s written procedures for accepting and processing all referrals and a training plan to include all licensed staff to familiarize them with the district’s referral procedures.
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 7/29/2016
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support