On May 13, 2019, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (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 afforded the parent of a student with a disability meaningful opportunity to participate in the development of the student’s individualized education program (IEP); and properly developed an IEP reasonably calculated to enable the student to make progress appropriate in light of the student’s unique circumstances.
The parents of a student with a disability must be afforded an opportunity to meaningfully participate in IEP team meetings. School districts must take steps to ensure the student’s parents are present at each IEP team meeting or are afforded the opportunity to participate, including notifying parents of the meeting early enough to ensure they will have an opportunity to attend, and scheduling the meeting at a mutually agreeable time and place. When the parents of a student with a disability are separated, parental rights under the special education law generally apply to both parents unless a court order states otherwise. A biological or adoptive parent is presumed to be a parent for purposes of special education law unless they do not have legal authority to make educational decisions for the student or there is a judicial order specifying that another person is the parent for the purposes of special education law. (34 CFR §§ 300.322 and 300.501[b]).
The student’s mother and father have joint custody and share educational decision-making authority. On May 6, the district spoke with the father about scheduling the student’s annual IEP team meeting. The father agreed to hold the IEP team meeting on May 10. Although the district created the IEP written invite to both parents, the district acknowledges that the invite was only sent to the father prior to the IEP team meeting. The student’s annual IEP team meeting was held on May 10. The mother did not attend the meeting. By not providing notice of the IEP team meeting to the student’s mother, the district did not properly afford her the opportunity to participate in the development of the IEP. The IEP team met again on May 17 and properly afforded both parents of a student with a disability meaningful opportunity to participate in the development of the student’s IEP. Upon receipt and review of this complaint, the district immediately implemented corrective actions to ensure parents of a student with a disability who have joint custody are both afforded an opportunity to meaningfully participate in IEP team meetings. No further corrective action is required.
A district meets its obligation to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to a student with a disability, in part, by providing special education and related services. Districts must provide FAPE to each student with a disability by developing a program based on the student’s unique needs that is reasonably calculated to enable the student to make progress appropriate in light of the student’s circumstances, and documenting that program in the IEP. (34 CFR §§ 300.320-300.324; Wis. Stats. § 115.78).
The student’s IEP in effect at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year was developed on May 21, 2018. The IEP team considered information from the previous school year, the student’s achievement on current district-level assessments, teacher observation data, and concerns of the student’s parent. The statement of present level of academic achievement and functional performance detailed the student’s needs related to the student’s current performance in the areas of reading and math, and included information about how the student’s disability affects the student’s involvement in the general education curriculum. The IEP team developed annual goals related to reading and math. Each annual goal was measurable, addressed the student’s needs, and included how and when the parent would be informed of the student’s progress toward meeting the goal. The IEP included specialized instruction and supplementary aids and services to enable the student to advance toward attaining the annual goals and to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum. During the annual IEP meeting on May 17, 2019, the mother expressed concerns about the student’s self-advocacy and mental health. The IEP team documented the concerns and developed self-advocacy goals, provided specially designed instruction in self-advocacy skills, and included as a supplementary aid and support check ins on academic progress. In addition, the IEP team reviewed and revised the student’s disability related needs, specific to reading and math, and revised the reading and math goals and included the current baselines and levels of attainment. On May 20, following the annual IEP meeting, the mother contacted the district and requested additional support for the student in the areas of assistive technology and spelling. The district responded to the parent and included the additional revisions to the student’s IEP. The district properly developed an IEP reasonably calculated to enable the student to make progress appropriate in light of the student’s unique circumstances
This concludes our review of this complaint. This decision is final for the IDEA State Complaint process.
//signed BVH 7/3/2019
Barbara Van Haren, PhD
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support