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IDEA Complaint Decision 18-027

On March 12, 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(s) are whether the district, during the 2017-2018 school year:
  • Properly developed and implemented an individualized education program (IEP) for a student with a disability regarding vision and homebound services; and
  • Properly determined placement for a student with a disability.

A district meets its obligation to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to a student with a disability, in part, by providing special education and related services. Districts must provide FAPE to each student with a disability by developing a program based on the student’s unique needs that is reasonably calculated to enable the student to make progress appropriate in light of the student’s circumstances, documenting that program in the IEP, and implementing the program articulated in the IEP. In Wisconsin, the IEP team determines placement for a student with a disability. Districts must consider the impact of student absences on the ability of the student to make progress in the general education curriculum and toward IEP goals. If a student is absent from school for a prolonged period of time, the district must convene an IEP team meeting to discuss the student’s IEP and determine if it is necessary to modify the program or placement in order to ensure the continued provision of FAPE.

On September 19, 2017, the IEP team met and developed the IEP which outlined a variety of special education services, including vision services. From November 29 to December 15, the student was ill and medically excused from school. On December 17, the student had surgery and the parent provided a medical excuse for an additional four weeks. During this time, there was no IEP team meeting and the student did not receive any educational services.

On January 8, the parent inquired as to whether some of the services in the student’s IEP could be provided at home. District staff responded and stated that homebound services should be considered. Outside of an IEP team meeting, district staff and the parent agreed on homebound services, which were scheduled to begin on January 15. District staff notified the parent that they would provide homebound services temporarily, but doctor verification was required to receive homebound services on a long term basis.

Homebound instruction for a student with a disability is part of a continuum of educational placements. An IEP team may decide to change the placement of a student with disabilities to homebound instruction if, during an IEP team meeting, it is determined that homebound services are necessary for the student because they are unable to attend school. The amount of homebound instruction provided must be based on the student’s unique needs. While the parent’s may bring medical information for consideration at the IEP team meeting, the IEP team does not need to receive verification from a medical professional before changing the student’s placement to homebound instruction and medical professionals cannot prescribe district homebound instruction for students.

On January 15, the student did not attend the first scheduled session of homebound instruction due to illness. On that same date, district staff informed the parent that homebound services would no longer be provided because the student was physically able to leave the house, and instead the student would receive services at school on a shortened day schedule. This determination was made outside of an IEP team meeting and without revising the student’s IEP to reflect this change. The student attended one day of school on January 17. On January 22, 2018, the IEP team met to discuss medical updates for the student. After the meeting, the parent removed the student from the district. The district failed to properly develop and implement an IEP for a student with a disability regarding vision and homebound services when it did not have an IEP meeting between November 29 and January 22 to consider the effect of the student’s absences on the provision of FAPE. The district also failed to properly determine placement for a student with a disability when it changed the student’s placement to homebound and to a shortened school day outside of an IEP team meeting.

The student is currently enrolled in home-based private education, therefore student-specific corrective action is not required. However, if the student re-enrolls in the district, the district must determine compensatory services for the missed instructional time between November 29, 2017, and January 22, 2018. Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district must develop a corrective action plan and submit it to the department to ensure that all placement determinations are made through the IEP team process and provision of homebound services for students with IEPs be based on individual students needs determined through an IEP team meeting,

The corrective action plan must also include professional development and a review and revision of policies and procedures to ensure that medical documentation may be considered, but is not required when determining homebound placement for students with IEPs, and that homebound is available when an IEP team determines it is appropriate, rather than only when the student cannot physically leave home.

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. This decision is final for the IDEA State Complaint process. These issues may be addressed through other dispute resolutions, including mediation and due process hearings. For more information, visit the department’s website at http://dpi.wi.gov/sped/dispute-resolution or contact the special education team at (608) 266-1781.

//signed CST 5/11/2018
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support
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