On September 28, 2017, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (parent) against the XXXXX (district). This is the department’s decision regarding the complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2017-2018 school year:
- Properly ensured both parents of a student with a disability were afforded the opportunity to participate in the individualized education program (IEP) team process;
- Properly responded to requests from the parent of a student with a disability for information and for an IEP team meeting;
- Properly changed the placement of a student with a disability; and
- Properly provided both parents of a student with a disability prior written notice of a change in the student’s placement.
The student who is the subject of this complaint resides with the student’s father and by a court order effective August 31, 2017, the student’s father was given specific decision-making authority for the student’s educational issues. The student’s mother was provided visitation. On September 15, 2017, the student enrolled in the district. On September 20, the special education teacher met with the student’s father and the student to review the student’s IEP from the previous district and discuss scheduling at the district high school. The previous district operated on a seven-hour day, while the district’s high school operates on a four-hour block schedule. Due to the block scheduling and to assist with transitioning the student to a new high school, it was decided the student would receive two blocks per day (84 minutes per block) of instruction in reading, writing, math, and pre-teaching of general education curriculum in the special education classroom. This represented an increase of over twice the amount of time in a separate special education environment compared to the services specified in the student’s previous IEP. The student’s father agreed to this change. The student began attending the district high school on September 21, and the revised IEP was implemented that day. In a form dated September 22, the district provided the student’s mother and father with notice of changes made to the IEP without an IEP team meeting specifying the changes would be implemented on September 25.
When a student with a disability transfers between local educational agencies (LEAs) in Wisconsin, the new LEA must provide a free appropriate public education to the student without delay. The new LEA must either adopt the student’s evaluation and IEP from the previous LEA, or conduct its own evaluation and develop its own IEP. Under Wisconsin law, IEP teams are responsible for determining the placement of a student with a disability. However, an IEP team meeting is not required solely for the purpose of reviewing and adopting the evaluation and IEP from the previous district. Additionally, an IEP team meeting is not required for the purpose of determining placement based on the adopted evaluation and IEP if the student will attend the school the student would attend if not disabled and the IEP can be implemented as written. However, if the student’s IEP cannot be implemented as written and/or the student will not attend the school the student would attend if not disabled, an IEP team must meet to determine the student’s placement. Notification of the placement determination must be provided to the parent prior to implementation of the IEP.
On September 20, the parent and the district agreed not to convene an IEP team meeting to modify the student’s current IEP and the district provided notice of the changes to the IEP. However, when the parent and the district decided during this meeting to change the amount of special education services the student would receive in the special education classroom, a decision to change the educational placement of the student was improperly made outside of an IEP team meeting. In addition, notice of placement was provided to the student’s parents after the IEP was implemented. The district did not properly change the placement of a student with a disability. The district must develop a corrective action plan to ensure the decision to change the educational placement of a student is made by the IEP team during an IEP team meeting and notice of the placement determination is provided to the parent prior to IEP implementation. Submit the corrective action plan to Anita Castro at the Department of Public Instruction, 402 Graham Avenue, Eau Claire, WI 54701.
On September 8, 2017, the student’s mother contacted the district and asked that she be included in correspondence regarding the student’s enrollment. On September 25, she again requested information from the district and requested an IEP team meeting. An IEP team meeting had already been planned by the district and on September 26, an invitation to attend an IEP team meeting scheduled for October 3 was sent to each parent. On September 28, the student’s mother received the information she had requested from the district, as well as the notice of changes made to the student’s IEP and the invitation to the October 3 IEP team meeting. The student’s mother was concerned that she had not been invited to the meeting to discuss changes to the student’s IEP and that the amount of time the student was in regular education classes was decreased. Additionally, although she was, in fact, able to attend the October 3 IEP team meeting, she was also concerned she had not been involved in determining a mutually agreeable time for scheduling the IEP team meeting.
Under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) regulations, if a judicial decree or order identifies a person or persons to act as the parent of a child or to make educational decisions on behalf of a child, then that person is determined to be the parent. If a court orders joint legal custody and makes no other specific provision related to educational decisions, the parents share that decision-making authority. However, a court may order joint legal custody and give one parent sole power to make specified decisions such as educational decisions. In a court order effective August 31, 2017, the student’s father was given specific decision-making authority for the student’s educational issues. The district involved the father in the development of the IEP. As was required under state law, the district provided educational records to the mother. The district properly ensured the parent with educational decision-making authority was afforded an opportunity to participate in the IEP team process.
On October 3, 2017, an IEP team meeting was held to develop the student’s IEP and determine placement. Both parents attended the meeting and shared their concerns for enhancing the education of the student. The IEP includes the student’s current levels of academic and functional performance, how the disability affects performance, and goals and services to address the student’s disability-related needs. On October 10, the district sent an invitation to each parent to attend an IEP team meeting scheduled October 12 for the purpose of reviewing the student’s behavior intervention plan and determining placement. On October 11, via a court order, both parents were given decision-making authority for the student’s educational issues. Both parents attended the October 12 IEP team meeting. The IEP team reduced the amount of special education services the student would receive in the special education classroom to a level comparable to the services provided in the previous district. This decision represented a change in educational placement. The placement decision was made by the IEP team during an IEP team meeting and each parent was provided notice of placement that day. The projected implementation date for the IEP was October 16, 2017. The district properly changed the placement of a student with a disability and provided the parents of a student with a disability prior written notice of a change in the student’s placement.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 11/28/2017