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IDEA Complaint Decision 18-044

On May 6, 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 this complaint. The issues are whether the district, since May 6, 2017, properly developed and implemented an individualized education program (IEP) for student with a disability and properly determined the student’s placement.

School districts 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. IEPs must include annual goals designed to meet the student’s needs that result from the student’s disability to enable the student to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum, and meet each of the student’s other needs that result from the student’s disability. Each annual goal must contain a baseline from which progress can be measured, a measurable level of attainment, a statement on how the child’s progress towards meeting the goal will be measured, and when periodic reports on the progress the student is making towards the goal will be provided to the parents. If the student’s behavior impedes his learning or that of others, the IEP team must consider the use of positive behavioral interventions, supports, and other strategies to address that behavior.

Each IEP must include special education services to be provided to meet the student’s unique disability-related needs. Services must be described in the IEP in a manner clear to all who are involved in both the development and the implementation of the IEP, including clear statements of the amount, frequency, duration, and location for each service. Whenever possible, the IEP should describe special education services, related services, supplementary aids and services, and program modifications and supports for school personnel using daily allotments of hours or minutes. Where a student’s disability and unique educational needs are such that it would not be appropriate to reflect the amount in a daily allocation, the IEP should identify specific allocations appropriate to the needed special education services, related services, supplementary aids and services, and program modifications and supports for school personnel, preferably in weekly allotments. In the case where it is impossible to describe special education services in daily or weekly allotments of time, the IEP must clearly describe the circumstances under which the service will be provided.

The student’s IEP team must also determine the appropriate educational placement for the student giving care to ensure the student is educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE), with non-disabled students to the maximum extent appropriate. Each IEP must describe the extent, if any, to which the student will not participate with non-disabled peers in the regular education environment. The IEP team must consider the entire school day (lunch, recess, and other non-academic activities) when determining removal. Notification of the placement determination must be provided to the parent prior to implementation of the IEP.

The student who is the subject of this complaint attended the district through open enrollment during the 2017-2018 school year. On September 6, 2017, the IEP team met to develop the student’s annual IEP. The team was properly constituted. The IEP team found that the student’s disability adversely affects the student’s progress toward meeting grade-level academic standards. The IEP team identified three disability-related needs in the areas of reading, math, and organization. The IEP contains three goals which are aligned with the identified needs of the student. Two of the three annual goals were measurable (including baseline data and level of attainment) and included how progress would be measured and when the parent would be informed of such progress. The third goal statement lacked adequate baseline information, and the level of attainment was inconsistent with the written goal statement itself. The IEP included specialized instruction in the areas of language arts and math with a clear statement outlining the frequency, amount, and location of services. A third area of specialized instruction, “reinforcement of general education material,” failed to clearly communicate the amount and frequency. The IEP team also developed supplementary aids and services to support the student in the special education and general education environment that included, but were not limited to, modification of curriculum and grading, no time limits on tests, reduction of number of problems on assignments, and use of a planner. In many instances, however, the IEP failed to describe the frequency and amount of these supplementary aids and services, but rather stated they would be provided “when needed.”

The IEP team subsequently met again on February 26, March 27, and April 19, 2018, to review and revise the IEP. The district properly notified the parent of each meeting, and the parent attended all meetings. In the September 2017 IEP and through all successive revisions, the student’s disability-related needs and annual goals remained unchanged. In all revisions, the IEP team documented concerns regarding the student’s safety toward himself and others.

At the February 26, 2018, IEP team meeting, the IEP team decided the student would begin receiving homebound services, citing behavioral concerns. The decision for the student to remain on homebound services was continued at the March 27, 2018, IEP team meeting. The district was to provide the student with homework for the student and the parent to complete. No specially designed instruction was provided to the student. The revised IEP also failed to document why a homebound placement was the least restrictive environment for the student. In addition, although behavior was indicated as a concern, the IEP team did not identify behavior as impeding learning, and did not consider the use of positive behavioral interventions, supports, and other strategies (“supports”) to address the student’s behavior.

At the April 19, 2018, IEP team meeting, the IEP team determined the student should return to school full days. The IEP team determined the student needed one-on-one adult supervision and a separate area for lunch and recess. The IEP also contained specially designed instruction in the areas of language arts, math, and a support study hall. The IEP documented the amount and frequency for these services; however, the location for the support study hall was unclear. A fourth area of specially designed instruction, “reinforcement of general education material,” stated the amount and frequency as “when needed,” which is not an appropriate description of amount and frequency.

On April 20, 2018, the district administrator provided the parent notice of denial of continued open enrollment due to unavailability of services outlined in the student’s April IEP. Upon completion of the February, March, and April IEP team meetings, the district changed the student’s placement but did not provide the parents prior written notice of a change in the student’s placement.

The district failed to properly develop and implement the student’s IEP and improperly changed the student’s placement. Because the student is no longer enrolled in the district, no student-specific corrective action is required at this time. Should the student return to the district, the district is directed to reconvene the IEP team and revise the student’s IEP to correct the errors as outlined above, and determine the compensatory services to be provided to the student due to the failure to properly develop the student’s IEP and determine placement.

Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must submit to the department a corrective action plan to ensure the following:

  • IEP teams properly consider whether each student’s behavior impedes the student’s learning or that of others, and consider and document the use of positive behavioral interventions, supports, and other strategies to address that behavior;
  • Properly develop IEPs that include specially designed instruction;
  • All annual goals include baseline data and level of attainment;
  • All IEPs contain appropriate descriptions of the amount, frequency, location, and duration of services to be provided;
  • IEP teams make placement determinations in compliance with LRE requirements; and
  • Parents are provided prior written notice of changes to placement a reasonable time before they are implemented.

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.

//signed CST 7/5/2018
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support