On April 25, 2019, (form dated April 22, 2019), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (parents) against the XXXXX (district). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2018-19 school year, properly developed and implemented the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability, and properly determined the student’s placement.
Properly developed and implemented the individualized education program.
School districts must provide each student with a disability a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment. A school district meets its obligation to provide FAPE to each student with a disability, in part, by developing and implementing each student’s IEP. The IEP must include a statement of the student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. The IEP team must identify how the student's disability affects the student's involvement and progress in the general curriculum, develop measurable annual goals designed to meet the student's disability-related needs, and align special education services to enable the student to advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals, make progress in the general curriculum and be educated with nondisabled students. The IEP must include clear descriptions of the amount, frequency, location, and duration of services so the school district’s commitment of resources is clear to the parent and all involved in developing and implementing the IEP. (34 CFR §§ 300.320, 300.323-324; Wis. Stat. §115.787).
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 the 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. (34 CFR §§ 300.114-116, Wis. Stat. §115.78).
The student’s IEP in effect at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year was developed on December 21, 2017. The IEP included a description of the student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, including strengths of the student and concerns of the parents. Specifically, the IEP noted that transitions were difficult for the student, especially when entering larger group activities. The IEP described how the student’s disability affects the student’s access, involvement, and progress in the general curriculum. Additionally, the IEP contained measurable goals designed to meet the student’s specific disability-related needs. Finally, the IEP included services aligned to enable to the student to advance toward attaining the annual IEP goals. The IEP included services of specially designed instruction within the early childhood classroom for 2.5 hours, 4 times per week, to be provided during the morning session in the early childhood special education classroom. According to the parent, the IEP team felt the morning session would be a better fit for the student than the afternoon session as it contained students of similar age whose disability-related needs were comparable to the student’s needs.
On December 17, 2018, the district convened an IEP team meeting to discuss changing the student’s placement to a 4K classroom, and to conduct an annual review of the student’s IEP. The student’s parents shared concerns about the proposed change which included communication issues and socially withdrawing in larger group settings. The IEP team described how the student’s disability affected the student’s access, involvement, and progress in the general education curriculum, and identified specific disability-related needs. The IEP team developed measurable annual goals to address the student’s needs and appropriately described the amount, frequency, location, and duration of services. The amount of specially designed instruction remained unchanged. Upon review of the student’s current levels of functioning, the team determined the student would not be placed in the 4K class.
On January 24, 2019, school staff contacted the parent to inform them the district was dissolving the morning session of early childhood due to low enrollment. The district offered to continue providing the services outlined in the student’s IEP in the afternoon session of early childhood, which was not a change in placement. The parent expressed concerns regarding the fit of that session with the student’s needs due to the age of the other children and their needs. District staff assured the parent the student’s needs could be met within the afternoon session of early childhood. The student began attending the afternoon session of early childhood beginning on February 4, 2019, and continued to receive the special education services required by the student’s IEP. The student’s IEP was properly developed and implemented during the 2018-19 school year, and the student’s placement was properly determined at the December 2018 IEP team meeting.
This concludes our review of this complaint. This decision is final for the IDEA State Complaint process.
Barbara Van Haren, PhD
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support