On February 16, 2018 (letter dated January 3, 2018), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (complainant) against the XXXXX (district). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2017-18 school year, properly fulfilled its responsibility to identify, locate, and evaluate a student with a disability.
School districts must identify, locate, and evaluate all resident students with disabilities who are in need of special education and related services. This responsibility is often referred to as “child find.” The child find obligation is an affirmative one. School districts may not take a passive approach and wait for others, including parents, to refer students potentially eligible to receive special education for evaluation. Each district must establish written procedures for accepting and processing referrals and provide information and in-service opportunities to its entire licensed staff to familiarize them with the district’s referral procedures. Referrals must be in writing, include the name of the student, and the reasons why the person believes that the student is a child with a disability. Any person, including the parent, who reasonably believes that a student is a child with a disability may refer the student to a local educational agency for evaluation.
The student who is the subject of this complaint is not identified as a student with a disability. On October 12, 2017, the student was involved in a significant behavioral incident. The police were summoned and the student was taken into police custody following the incident.
On October 16, 2017, a district staff member, via email, invited the student’s parents to a meeting with district staff to review the student’s records and to “discuss (the student’s) needs as part of the process related to last week’s incident.” The parents agreed to attend the meeting, which occurred on October 18, 2017. When the parents arrived at the meeting, they were informed the meeting was a “manifestation determination” to determine if the student’s behavior was the result of a disability. District staff, along with the student’s parents, reviewed the student’s previous behavioral incident reports and noted the student had occasionally become defensive with adults and engaged in impulsive behavior, but it was not significant enough to raise the suspicion that student may have a disability. The group also noted the student did well academically, worked well with others, and appeared to be well-liked by his peers. The student was subsequently expelled by the district.
Under federal and state special education law, a manifestation determination is a required process used to decide whether behavior of a student with a disability was caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to the student’s disability or was a direct result of the school district’s failure to implement the student’s individualized education program (IEP). A manifestation determination must be conducted any time a school district proposes to change the placement of a student with a disability as a result of a breach of the code of student conduct. The term “manifestation determination” was used incorrectly in this situation and created confusion for this student’s parents.
No district staff member expressed concern the student might be a student with a disability, nor had the student’s parents raised concerns or submitted a referral for evaluation prior to the incident on October 12, 2017. Subsequent to filing this complaint, the student’s parents referred the student on March 21, 2018, for a special education evaluation, and the district is in the process of conducting the evaluation. Under the circumstances of this case, the district properly met its child find obligations.
This concludes our review of this complaint. This decision is final for the IDEA State Complaint process.