On September 22, 2016, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the River Valley School District. This is the department’s decision regarding the complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2015-16 school year, properly responded to a parent’s request for an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting to discuss extended school year (ESY) services.
ESY services are special education and related services provided beyond the normal school year in accordance with a student’s IEP at no cost to the parents. ESY services must be provided if a student’s IEP team determines through the IEP process that the services are necessary for the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE). ESY services must be determined through an IEP team meeting. This determination includes consideration of all appropriate factors, such as the likelihood of regression or retention and limited or slow recoupment of skills following a break in the regular school year.
At two IEP team meetings in April 2016, the parent requested the district consider ESY services for the student during the summer of 2016. The IEP team did not finish developing the student’s IEP at the April meetings, and proposed to meet again to finalize the IEP goals, services, and ESY. On June 1, 2016, the student’s special education teacher called the parent and offered to schedule an IEP team meeting for the purpose of discussing ESY. The parent did not want to meet until the results of an independent educational evaluation (IEE) were available and could be shared at the IEP team meeting, but the parent agreed to discuss ESY during the call. An agreement was reached that programming would be provided through the summer school program. During the call, the parent requested the program be called ESY. The teacher agreed to document the services as ESY, but stated it would not change what the district would provide. It is the district’s practice to offer summer school to all students with disabilities to continue to work on their IEP goals. The student participated in the six-week summer school session and worked on the student’s IEP goals. Speech and language services were also provided as specified in the IEP.
Summer school is a permissive program typically operated on a set schedule for a number of weeks during the summer. ESY is not the same as summer school. Making summer school classes available to students with disabilities does not relieve a school district of its obligation to consider, as appropriate, to provide ESY services for a student. The amount and the duration of ESY services cannot be limited to the district's summer school schedule or based solely on the availability of services. Because ESY eligibility must be based on individual student needs, the district’s practice to offer summer school to all students with disabilities to work on their IEP goals is not equivalent to providing ESY services. The district must determine on an individual basis whether the educational benefits obtained during the regular school year would be significantly jeopardized if a student is not provided an educational program during the summer months.
Although the district offered to convene an IEP team meeting to discuss ESY and the parent declined, the district should have convened an IEP team meeting for the purpose of determining whether or not the student required ESY. The district improperly determined ESY and placement when they offered ESY as summer school during a phone call with the parent.
Within 30 days of this decision, the district must submit a corrective action plan to the department ensuring ESY is properly considered during an IEP team meeting.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 11/18/2016
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support