On October 31, 2016 the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law by XXXXX against the XXXXX School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2016-17 school year, improperly changed the placement of a student with a disability.
School districts must ensure placement decisions for students with disabilities are made by Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams, including the parent(s), and are made in conformity with least restrictive environment (LRE) provisions. Under the LRE provisions, students with disabilities must be educated with nondisabled students to the maximum extent appropriate. Removal from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. The district must implement the student’s placement in accordance with the student’s IEP and provide the student's parent(s) with prior written notice whenever the district proposes to initiate or change, or refuses to initiate or change, the educational placement.
On August 25, 2016, the IEP team met and developed an IEP for the student which included positive behavioral interventions and supports, special education services in math and English, behavioral support, and a number of supplementary aids and services. The IEP was to be implemented for a full school day beginning the first day of the school year at the district high school.
The student has a history of attendance issues and mental health concerns. The student’s attendance was sporadic during the first weeks of the 2016-17 school year. The IEP team was reconvened on September 15, to address the student’s attendance issues. The team discussed the student’s behavior that was impeding her learning and added additional positive behavioral supports to the student’s IEP. The team discussed the student’s placement and agreed the school environment triggered the student’s mental health issues. It was determined the student would take online classes in the home environment with school support on a short-term basis.
On September 29, the IEP team met to consider the student’s eligibility, review and revise the IEP, and determine the student’s placement. The team determined the student remained eligible for special education and discussed the student’s online coursework and placement. It was agreed that the student was not making adequate progress in the home setting and that the student would participate at the high school for two hours every other day and attend an offsite program with additional mental health support for the remainder of the school week. The team reemphasized the desire to transition the student back to full-time placement at the high school as soon as possible.
The student refused to attend the offsite placement. The parent requested an IEP team meeting and the team reconvened on November 10 to review and revise the IEP and consider several placement options. The team determined the student would participate in a shortened school day at the district high school to address the student’s unique disability-related needs. The team planned to meet again in a month to review the student’s progress and the appropriateness of the placement. The team met again on December 8, to determine the student’s continuing placement and address the student’s ongoing attendance issues. It was determined the student would continue to participate in a shortened school day at the district high school.
The IEP team meetings held on August 25, September 15, September 29, and November 10, 2016, were properly constituted. At least one of the student’s parents attended each IEP team meeting. The student’s IEP team properly considered the student’s changing, unique disability-related needs and determined appropriate educational placements at each of these IEP team meetings.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 12/27/2016
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support