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IDEA Complaint Decision 17-007

On February 10, 2017, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the School District of Ashland. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2016-17 school year properly implemented the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability related to positive behavioral strategies, special transportation, and supplementary aids and services.

Local education agencies (LEAs) must provide a free appropriate public education to each student with a disability by developing a program that meets the student’s unique needs, documenting that program in the IEP, and implementing the program articulated in the IEP. At the beginning of each school year, each LEA must have an IEP in effect for each child with a disability, and special education and related services must be provided to the student in accordance with the student’s IEP. The district must inform all regular education teachers, special education teachers, related service providers, and other service providers of the student of their specific responsibilities related to implementing the student’s IEP. The services must be stated in the IEP in a manner clear to all who are involved in both the development and the implementation of the IEP.

On April 25, 2016, the IEP team met to develop the student’s annual IEP. During that meeting, the team determined the student required, as a supplementary aid and service, a “sensory diet- with a staff member, both scheduled and as needed, see ‘Special Factors’ Sensory Diet for activities for 15 min/ 4/day and when student is demonstrating a need for movement or calming activities.” The team also determined that the student’s behavior impedes his learning or that of others and developed positive behavioral supports and strategies including a sensory diet that “may change/develop over the course of the year,” and “going to the sensory room or any quiet room with limited extra stimuli in it.” The positive behavior strategies also included “clear and consistent routines and expectations, picture schedule and visuals,” and “picture schedule and picture symbols for following routines and directions.” During the 2016-17 school year, the sensory room contained limited extra stimuli and was used on a scheduled and as needed basis. Although varied sensory items were made available by some staff, all staff working with the student did not consistently provide the sensory diet as outlined in the IEP and certain staff were not familiar with the sensory diet as written in the IEP. Interviews confirmed some use of a defined schedule, picture schedules, visual aids, and symbols, however they were not consistently used. In addition, the description of the frequency of the provision of sensory diet “as needed” does not make clear how often the service is to be provided; as such, there is no way to determine whether the service has been properly implemented. Due to the lack of clarity and inconsistent provision of supports, the district failed to properly implement the supplementary aid and services of a sensory diet and positive behavioral strategies.

The annual IEP developed on April 25, 2016, included “Special transportation: buckle guard, M-F to and from school.” This service was not provided; rather, the student’s parents transported the student to and from school. As of December 9, 2016, the district agreed to compensate the parents for transportation. Despite this change, the IEP was not amended to reflect the change and agreement. The district failed to properly implement the student’s IEP with regard to transportation.

At the April 25, 2016 IEP team meeting, the team developed supplementary aids and services which included “adult assistance throughout the entire school day… (i.e. …gym, art, music library, sensory breaks).” IEP team meeting participants and those responsible for implementing the IEP did not have the same understanding of the meaning of the term “adult assistance.” Some team members believed it meant one-on-one assistance while others did not. In December of 2016, the district agreed to provide a one-on-one aide for the student. Despite this agreement, the IEP was not amended to reflect this change. Describing the service as “adult assistance” without further clarification does not provide sufficient specificity to determine whether the service has been properly implemented. Due to this lack of clarity, the district failed to properly implement the student’s IEP with regard to “adult assistance.”

Finally, the student’s IEP developed on April 25, 2016, included the supplementary aid and service of “…directions clarified…in a simple way (may need a demonstration or visuals) when completing work activities or assessments he does not understand, especially with more than one step, or new tasks.” Staff consistently clarified directions to the student in a simple way. Staff would initially use verbal directions and when needed use demonstrations and later visual aids when the student did not understand the directions or the task included multiple steps. The district properly implemented the student’s IEP regarding supplementary aid or service related to having directions clarified to him in a simple way.

Within 30 days, the district must conduct an IEP team meeting to ensure the IEP reflects the provision of specialized transportation utilizing parent contract, update the service of “adult assistance” to make the commitment of resources clear to all parties responsible for developing and implementing the student’s IEP, and revise the positive behavioral supports section so it can be implemented. Additionally, the IEP team must determine whether compensatory services are required to be provided to the student due to the implementation problems during the 2016-17 school year. By May 11, 2017, the district must provide the department a copy of the IEP developed with documentation of consideration of compensatory services.

In addition, within 30 days the district must submit a proposed corrective action plan to the department to ensure student’s IEPs are implemented as written and services are written to make the LEAs commitment of resources clear to IEP team members and those responsible for implementing 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 4/11/2017
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support

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