On August 20, 2018, the department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from #### (parent) against the #### (district). This is the department’s decision regarding the complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2017-2018 school year:
- Properly implemented the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability;
- Properly changed the student’s educational placement; and
- Properly responded to a parent’s request for student records.
The student enrolled in a high school in the district at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. Initially the student was provided special education and related services pursuant to an IEP adopted from his previous school district. On October 20, 2018, the student’s IEP team completed a reevaluation of the student and developed a new IEP for the student. In February 2018, the student was placed in detention by juvenile justice authorities. The detention facility was located within the geographical boundaries of the district. District staff at the detention facility reviewed the student’s IEP and determined that the special education services specified in the IEP could be provided at the detention facility. All students at the detention facility receive five hours of instruction five days per week. The student’s IEP team met via teleconference on March 2, 2018, and issued a new placement notice indicating the detention facility as the student’s placement. The student was released from the detention facility on March 2. The student returned to the high school he was attending prior to being placed in the detention facility. Subsequently, the parent requested the student attend a new school. After consultation with district staff the parent and the district agreed that the student would attend one of the district’s alternative schools and the student began attending there in May. After the student began attending the alternative school, the student’s IEP team met on May 18, 2018, and changed the student’s placement to the alternative school. The student completed the 2017-18 school year at the alternative school.
Properly implemented the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability
Specially designed instruction, related services, and supplementary aids and services in a student’s IEP must be provided to the student as specified in the IEP. The IEP developed for the student on October 8, 2017, required specialized instruction in study skills for 50 minutes five times per week, specialized instruction in emotional/behavioral skills for 15 minutes once per week, and specialized instruction in social skills for 10 minutes two times per week. The IEP also specified the student would receive as supplementary aids and services copies of peer/teacher notes and extended time on tests. A behavior intervention plan was included in the IEP. The evidence reviewed by the department’s investigator indicates the student’s October 8, 2018, IEP was implemented as written throughout the 2017-18 school year at the student’s school, while the student was in detention, and at the alternative school.
Properly changed the student’s educational placement
In Wisconsin, an IEP team must determine the special education placement for a student with a disability. The placement decision must be made based on the student’s IEP and individualized needs. An IEP team must include the parent, a regular education teacher, a special education teacher, and an LEA representative.
In this complaint, the student’s physical location changed three times during the course of the school year; from high school to the detention center, from the detention center back to high school, and from high school to the alternative school. The first of the two changes were due to decisions by juvenile justice authorities. In this type of situation, the student’s IEP team must meet as soon as possible to review the student’s IEP to determine whether the student’s IEP can be implemented in the new location, whether the IEP needs to be revised to meet the student’s needs in the new location, and to issue a new placement notice aligned with the new location. In this complaint, the student’s IEP team did not follow the appropriate procedure when the student returned to high school from the detention center because an IEP team meeting was not held. In addition, the decision to change the student’s placement to the alternate school should have been made by the IEP team through an IEP team meeting, and prior to the student’s attendance at the alternate school.
Within 30 days the district shall submit to the department a corrective action plan specifying the steps the district will take to ensure high school special education staff understand and comply with the proper procedures for changing a student’s educational placement, particularly in situations involving alternative schools and detention facilities. No student level corrective action will be required as the student now attends school in another state.
Properly responded to a parent’s request for student records
The student’s parent became aware of a letter regarding the student written by district staff and provided to juvenile justice authorities. The parent asked to see a copy of the letter and was shown a copy of the letter by district staff at a juvenile justice hearing regarding the student. Later the parent visited the student’s school and asked for a copy of the letter and was told by district staff that she was not entitled to a copy of the letter. The following day the parent visited the district’s central office to seek a resolution of the matter. The district’s assistant general counsel met with the parent and provided the parent a copy of the letter.
A school district must permit a parent to inspect and review any educational records relating to their children that are collected, maintained, or used by the agency for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) purposes. The district must comply with a request without unnecessary delay, and before any meeting regarding an IEP, and in no case more than 45 days after the request has been made. On request, a parent must be provided copies of the records if failure to provide copies would effectively prevent the parent from exercising the right to inspect and review the records. In this complaint the parent inspected and reviewed the letter but was later told by district staff she could not have a copy of the letter. Arguably the district should have provided the parent with a copy of the letter immediately. However, in providing a copy of the letter the next day, the district did not prevent the parent from effectively exercising the right to inspect and review the record. The district properly responded to the parent’s request for student records.
This concludes our review of this complaint, all identified noncompliance must be corrected within one year of the date of this decision. 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.