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IDEA Complaint Decision 16-062

On September 11, 2016, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Lake Geneva-Genoa City UHS School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, beginning on September 11, 2015, properly developed the individualized education program (IEP) and properly determined the educational placement for a student with a disability.

An IEP is a written statement for a student with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised during an IEP team meeting. A school district must have an IEP in effect for every eligible student within its jurisdiction at the beginning of each school year. An IEP must include goals and services that address the student’s disability related needs and enable the student to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum. In Wisconsin, the IEP team also determines the student’s special education placement. Unless the IEP requires some other arrangement, IEP teams must ensure students are educated in the school they would attend if nondisabled. In addition, IEP teams must make placement decisions in conformity with the least restrictive environment (LRE) provision, which means, to the maximum extent appropriate, students are to be educated with nondisabled peers; and special classes, separate schooling, or other removals of a student from the regular educational environment can occur only if the nature or severity of the student’s disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. Any time an IEP team determines a student will not participate full time in general education classes and activities, the IEP must include an explanation of the extent to which the student will not participate with nondisabled peers. The IEP team must document its placement decision, including its consideration of LRE, in the IEP. While the IEP team (which includes the parent) must work toward consensus, and the team must meaningfully consider parent’s requests related to IEP development and placement decisions, the district is ultimately responsible for ensuring such decisions are made in conformity with the requirements of state and federal special education law to ensure the student receives a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Parents retain the right to resolve disagreements using the dispute resolution options provided under state and federal special education law.

The student’s IEP in effect on September 11, 2015, was developed on October 28, 2014. The IEP included measurable IEP goals to address organizational and math skills and included specially designed instruction, related services, supplementary aids and services, program modifications, and supports for staff. The IEP also included a transition plan. Placement was in the district’s high school. The IEP team next met on October 8 and October 23, 2015, to complete an annual review of the student’s IEP, consider transition, determine placement, and address parent concerns. The revised IEP went into effect on November 17, 2015, and included one goal to address organizational skills, documented the need for assistive technology, and addressed transition. IEP services included 225 minutes per week of specially designed instruction “as part of the inclusion program model” for each of the following: math, social studies, and science. The IEP also included the special education service of classroom monitoring for 15 minutes 2x per week; related services of assistive technology, occupational therapy, and social work services; a number of supplementary aids and services; and consultation between specified staff. Information provided during the investigation indicates IEP team members raised concerns about the student’s attendance and social relationships prior to the meeting, however the IEP did not document these concerns and the statements of present level and effects of disability do not contain sufficient information to demonstrate how the IEP goal and services addressed the student’s disability related needs.

The student stopped attending school on January 18, 2016, and was excused from attendance by the district. The IEP team met on January 28, 2016, in response to the parent’s request to change the student’s placement to homebased instruction. The IEP was revised to include one goal to complete online courses by the end of the school year. The IEP does not make clear whether this goal addressed a disability related need. The program summary included the special education service of teacher monitoring of online instruction progress for 15 minutes per month, the supplementary aid of PDF files “when available”, and consultation between the occupational therapist, special education teacher, and home for 15 minutes per month. The explanation of the extent of removal from general education indicated district administration had agreed the student would be educated in the home environment per parent request. A statement was included noting the student was welcome to come to school to work with a special education teacher as needed. The placement notice specified the IEP would be implemented in the district’s high school and home, however the IEP did not include any services to be provided at the high school and the student did not come to school for services during the IEP term. The IEP developed on January 28, 2016, was not properly developed to address the student’s disability related needs and the placement decision was not properly made by the IEP team.

The IEP team met again on May 11, 2016, to conduct an annual IEP review, consider transition, and determine placement. The IEP was revised for implementation beginning September 1, 2016, through September 5, 2017. The IEP goal was revised to complete online courses with a score of 80% or higher and special education services were reduced to 10 minutes of teacher monitoring per month. An additional 15 minutes per month of consultation between staff and home was added. The placement notice indicates the parent requested the student continue to be educated at home, the IEP team determined this would be appropriate, and also documented that virtual school placement was under consideration.

The district acknowledges the IEPs in effect during the 2015-2016 school year were not properly developed and the student’s IEP team did not properly determine the student’s placements to ensure the student received FAPE in the LRE. An IEP team meeting was held on September 2, 2016, to review and revise the student’s IEP and to consider the parent’s request to change the student’s placement. During the meeting, the IEP team agreed a homebound placement using online instruction alone was not appropriate for the student. IEP team participants, including the parent, shared concerns about the student’s social skills and relationships and agreed the student required social skills instruction and opportunities for social interaction with peers in a school setting. The IEP team also decided the student should receive math instruction and occupational therapy in school. The revised IEP, however, did not describe these services with sufficient specificity. The IEP team considered and rejected the parent’s request for placement in a virtual school in another district. District staff believed the student’s needs could be met within the district’s programming options. The IEP was revised to reflect a hybrid placement at home and in the district’s high school and noted an IEP team meeting would be held to review the student’s progress within the first 8 weeks of IEP implementation which was to begin on September 10, 2016. The parent disagreed with the IEP and placement decision. The district offered to conduct another IEP team meeting to address the parent’s disagreement. In response, the parent, wishing to consider other options, requested to wait to hold the meeting. The parent open-enrolled the student into another district on September 22, 2016.

Because the student is no longer enrolled in the school district, no student level correction is required at this time. Should the student reenroll in the district, the student’s IEP team must reconvene to ensure the IEP and placement are properly developed and consider compensatory services. No districtwide corrective action is required because of the unique circumstances of this complaint.

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 11/10/2016
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support