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IDEA Complaint Decision 19-007

On January 16, 2019, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXXX (complainant) against the XXXXX (district). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2018-2019 school year, properly shortened the school day of a student with a disability; and properly responded to a request from the parent of a student with a disability for homebound instruction.

In Wisconsin, individualized education program (IEP) teams determine placements for students with disabilities. A student’s IEP team may shorten the student’s school day if the team determines a shortened day is required to address the student’s unique disability-related needs. Before deciding to shorten the student’s day, the IEP team must consider if there are other ways to meet the student’s needs. When a student’s school day is shortened, the student’s IEP must include an explanation of why the student’s disability-related needs require a shortened day, and a plan for the student’s return to school for a full day, including a plan to meet more frequently to review student data, and determine whether the student is able to return to school full-time (DPI Information Update Bulletin 14.03, Shortened School Days, December 2014). Homebound instruction is included as an option on the continuum of alternative placement locations under state and federal special education law (34 CFR §300.115). A parent may request an IEP team meeting to discuss changes in placement, including homebound, at any time, and the district should honor reasonable requests. When medical providers submit a request for homebound instruction for a student with a disability based on a health condition, the IEP team should meet to consider the information submitted. However, the IEP team makes the determination of whether homebound services are appropriate, and if so, the amount of services the student will receive based on the student’s unique disability-related needs.

The student who is the subject of this complaint has significant disability-related medical needs. The IEP in effect at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year included a full school day for the student with the majority of time spent in self-contained special education environments with one-to-one adult assistance. The student was to attend music, art, and library general education classes with nondisabled peers. The student’s IEP team met on September 25, 2018, and October 25, 2018, to discuss parent concerns around staffing. One or both of the student’s parents attended each meeting. The team did not discuss changing the student’s placement at either of these meetings.

The IEP team met again on November 15, 2018, to develop the student’s annual IEP. A district staff person was unexpectedly unable to attend, so the team agreed to suspend the meeting and reconvene at a later time. The IEP team reconvened on December 13, 2018, to continue developing the student’s annual IEP. The student’s parents attended the meeting. At that meeting, the team discussed the student’s changing medical condition. Recent health changes had occurred causing the student’s physical comfort to decrease. The team considered whether the student could attend a full day of school with changes in positioning. The team determined a shortened school day would be appropriate for the student given the changes in the student’s medical condition. The student was to continue to receive one-to-one adult assistance throughout the school day. The team agreed to reconvene in the spring to review the student’s progress and school day. The team properly determined a shortened school day was appropriate for the student based on the student’s unique disability-related needs.

The student’s parent contacted the school district to request homebound education for the student after the December IEP team meeting. The IEP team met to discuss this request on January 9, 2019. The team discussed the student’s medical needs and health changes. District staff noted they had not been provided updated information from the student’s medical provider, but proceeded to discuss the student’s health needs in consideration of the parent’s request for homebound based on staff observations. The student’s parent became frustrated with the discussion, as the parent believed the student had already been granted homebound instruction. The parent requested the meeting be suspended. The team did not make a decision about homebound instruction.

The district received a letter from a medical provider of the student requesting homebound instruction in mid-January. Beginning in early February 2019, multiple district staff attempted to contact the student’s parents to arrange an IEP team meeting. After not hearing back from the student’s parent, the district scheduled a meeting for February 20, 2019. On February 19, the student’s parent spoke with a district staff person on the phone and contacted the district via email requesting the district not move forward with the meeting. The district decided to cancel the meeting. The district has since scheduled an IEP team meeting for March 14, 2019, and has contacted the student’s parents multiple times regarding the date and time of the meeting. The district properly responded to the parent’s request for homebound instruction.

This concludes our review of this complaint. This decision is final for the IDEA State Complaint process.

//signed BVH 3/14/2019
Barbara Van Haren, PhD
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support