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IDEA Complaint Decision 18-065

On August 20, 2018, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (parent) against the Racine Unified School District (district). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, in preparation for the 2018-2019 school year, properly changed the educational placement of a student with a disability and properly responded to a request from the student’s parent for an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting.

Under Wisconsin law, IEP teams, including students’ parents, determine special education placements for students with disabilities. The IEP team must meet to determine each student’s placement at least annually, based on the student’s IEP. In determining the educational placement of a student with a disability, each district must ensure the IEP team makes the placement decision in conformity with least restrictive environment (LRE) provisions. LRE provisions require each IEP team to ensure that the student is educated, to the maximum extent appropriate, with students who are not disabled. Special classes, separate schooling, or other removal from the regular education environment should only occur if education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. Unless the IEP of a child with a disability requires some other arrangement, the student should be educated in the school that the student would attend if nondisabled. The district must provide prior written notice to the parent of a student with a disability whenever the district proposes to initiate or change, or refuses to initiate or change, the educational placement of the student, including a description of any options considered and rejected and the reasons those options were rejected.

The student attended a district high school during the 2017-18 school year and received special education services in a special education classroom. This was not the high school the student would otherwise attend if [the student] did not have a disability. The student’s neighborhood school did not provide the services required by the student’s IEP. However, the district decided the services would be provided at the student’s neighborhood school during the 2018-2019 school year.

On May 31, 2018, the IEP team met to develop the student’s annual IEP and determine the student’s placement. The IEP team determined the student’s IEP could be implemented at the student’s neighborhood school during the 2018-2019 school year because the school was now offering the required services. The IEP team listed other placement options it had considered and rejected on the notice. The IEP discussed maintaining the placement at the other high school as the student’s behaviors had improved during the 2017-18 school year. The team also noted the parent wanted the student to stay at this high school as she felt [the student] needed a male influence and would be anxious about going to a new school. The IEP team noted the teacher at the neighborhood school was also an experienced male teacher, and that the neighborhood school would allow for more opportunities to participate in electives. With the exception of the parent, the IEP team determined the student’s neighborhood school was the most appropriate placement for the student.

The district properly changed the educational placement of a student with a disability. The placement determination was made through an IEP team meeting and in conformity with least restrictive environment provisions as the student was placed in the school [the student] would attend if [the student] did not have a disability. Furthermore, the district provided the parent prior written notice of the IEP team’s decision to change the student’s educational placement, and the notice included a description of other placement options considered and rejected and the reasons those options were rejected.

A parent may request an IEP team meeting at any time, and a district must grant any reasonable request from a parent for a meeting to review and, if necessary, revise the child’s IEP. If the district denies the parent’s request for an IEP team meeting, the district must provide the parent with a written notice of refusal, including an explanation of why the agency has determined that conducting the meeting is not necessary.

The parent sent the child’s teacher and building principal an email on June 3, 2018, requesting the student’s IEP “be opened to discuss placement for the 2018-19 school year.” The teacher verbally informed the parent that if there was no new information to be shared, there was no need to hold another IEP team meeting so soon after the May 31, 2018, IEP team meeting. The district did not provide the parent written notice denying this request.

The district held an IEP meeting on September 14, 2018, which the parent attended. The team discussed the student’s placement and the parent’s concern about the student’s safety getting on and off the bus. The IEP team again made a placement decision to keep the student at [the student's] neighborhood school. The district did not properly respond to the parent’s June 3rd request for an IEP team meeting. Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must develop a corrective action plan to ensure staff members properly respond to a parent’s request for an IEP team meeting.

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 10/19/2018
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support