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IDEA Complaint Decision 18-096

On December 14, 2018 (form dated December 11, 2018), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (complainant) against XXXXX (district). This is the department’s decision regarding this complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2018-19 school year:
  • Properly responded to a parent’s request for a meeting of the individualized education program (IEP) team of a student with a disability; and
  • Properly developed the student’s IEP to address the student’s behavior.

A parent of a student with a disability may request an IEP team meeting at any time, and school districts should grant any such reasonable request. If the district denies the parent’s request for an IEP team meeting, the district must, within a reasonable amount of time, provide the parent with a notice of refusal, including an explanation of why the district has determined that conducting the meeting is not necessary. (34 CFR § 300.503)

Following a significant decline in the student’s school attendance due to student stress and increasing behavior concerns at home and at school, the student’s parent requested an IEP team meeting via email on November 12, 2018. The email was sent to several school staff, including the principal and the student’s special education teacher. The student was involved in a behavioral incident the next day, and the student’s parent again emailed school staff requesting an IEP team meeting. On November 16, 2018, the principal responded via email, indicating an IEP team meeting should be scheduled. Additional contacts between the complainant and various district staff regarding the complainant’s desire to schedule an IEP team meeting occurred on November 19 and 29; and on December 6, 11, 12, 13, 17, and 19. While district records indicate all staff were in agreement with the parent that an IEP team meeting was needed, no district staff scheduled an IEP team meeting. The district did not properly respond to the parent’s request for an IEP team meeting.

School districts must provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each student with a disability by developing a program that meets the student’s unique needs, documenting that program in the student’s IEP, and implementing the program. Any time an IEP team determines a student’s behavior impedes the student’s own learning or that of others, the IEP team must consider the use of positive behavioral interventions, supports, and other strategies to address that behavior. (34 CFR § 300.324)

The IEP in effect during the period of this complaint was developed at an IEP team meeting on February 8, 2018. The IEP team identified behavior as a concern for the student, indicating the student had difficulty maintaining focus and would become distracted by the actions of other students, which at times resulted in the student getting in verbal altercations with peers. The IEP describes providing the student constant reminders and words of encouragement and praise to assist the student in managing behavior. The IEP identifies self-regulation as one of the areas of the student’s disability-related needs, and includes a goal to increase skills in this area by demonstrating increased time on task. The IEP provides 120 minutes daily of specially designed instruction in social and behavioral skills. The IEP also includes a functional behavioral assessment, which indicates the function of the student’s behavior as avoidance of difficult thinking tasks and completing assignments. Finally, the IEP includes a behavior intervention plan utilizing positive behavior supports including staff words of encouragement, verbal praise, and earning additional free time. The district properly developed the student’s IEP to address the student’s behavior at the time of the February 2018 IEP team meeting.

The student no longer attends school in the district, so no student-specific corrective action is possible at this time. Should the student re-enroll in the district, the IEP team must convene as soon as possible to address the parent’s concerns. The team must also consider whether, as a result of the delay in conducting an IEP team meeting, compensatory services are needed. In addition, within 30 days of this decision, the district must develop a corrective action plan to ensure staff at the student’s former school understand how to respond appropriately to parents’ requests for IEP team meetings.

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 BVH 2/11/2019
Barbara Van Haren, PhD, Director
Special Education Team
Division for Learning Support