On June 20, 2016 (form dated June 16, 2016), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Belleville School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2015-16 school year, properly implemented the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability and properly informed staff responsible for implementing the IEP of their specific responsibilities.
Each student’s IEP must include a statement of the special education, related services, supplementary aids and services, and program modifications or supports for school staff to be provided based on each student’s unique needs. IEPs must describe services so the level of the district’s commitment of resources is clear to parents and other IEP team members. The description of the amount, frequency, location, and duration of each service must be appropriate to the specific service and stated in the IEP in a manner clear to all who are involved in both the development and the implementation of the IEP. All services must be provided as described in the IEP. Staff who will implement the student’s IEP must be informed of their specific responsibilities.
According to the student’s IEP in effect during the 2015-16 school year, the student had disability-related needs in the areas of reading, focus, and organization. As part of the special education services outlined in the IEP, the student was to have direct reading instruction for 30 minutes each day. District staff acknowledge, due to personnel issues, 18 direct reading instruction sessions were not provided as required by the IEP. To make up for the missed sessions, the district offered 10 sessions of 45 minutes each during the summer. The summer school time offered was less time than the total missed instructional time during the school year.
The IEP summary of special education services included instruction described as “check in check out” for 10 minutes each school day. District staff did not have a consistent understanding of what this service include. Some district staff indicated they left the decision up to the student as to whether to check in with them on a daily basis. Numerous supplementary aids and services were included in the IEP. For example, the student was to take tests that included more than 10 questions or any essay questions in the resource room or in a quiet environment such as the library. When interviewed, staff said the student often did not want to leave the classroom to take tests in a quiet room, and they left the decision up to the student. The district did not properly implement these accommodations and services.
The IEP required long-term class projects, i.e. those requiring more than two class periods to complete, to be divided into smaller chunks with multiple due dates. The IEP also required homework assignments to be reduced by one-third if the assignments would take more than 30 minutes to complete. When interviewed, all staff provided examples of how they had “chunked” long-term projects for the student and many noted they did not have many projects that met the definition under the IEP. Furthermore, most noted there was very little homework for the student that required more than 30 minutes to complete. In most cases where the homework would take more than 30 minutes to complete, the teachers reduced the number of problems and the student could submit the homework during the next class period. The IEP required the student to receive vocabulary words two days prior to their introduction in all core classes. Staff provided vocabulary words in advance unless the student chose a topic the day of the class and the staff did not have advance notice. The district properly implemented these accommodations.
The IEP was sent to the staff prior to the first semester of the 2015-16 school year so they could be properly informed of their specific responsibilities for its implementation. Additionally, as required in the “program modifications and supports for staff” section of the student’s IEP, staff were provided with information about executive functioning to aid staff’s understanding of the student’s challenges. However, some other staff began working with the student at the start of the second semester and they were not provided information about their responsibilities for implementing the student’s IEP, nor were they provided information on executive functioning.
Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district must convene an IEP team meeting to determine whether compensatory services are required for failure to implement the IEP. The district must send a copy of the revised IEP to the department within 10 days after the IEP team meeting. In addition, the district must develop a corrective action plan to ensure all IEPs are properly implemented; all staff responsible for implementing the IEP are informed of their specific responsibilities at the beginning of each semester; and all IEPs include a description of the amount, frequency, location, and duration of each service appropriate to the specific service and stated in the IEP in a manner clear to all who are involved in both the development and the 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 8/19/2016
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support