On May 13, 2019, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (parent) against the XXXXX (district). This is the department’s decision regarding the complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2018-2019 school year, properly developed and implemented the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability.
The student’s IEP in effect during the 2018-19 school year was developed May 16, 2018. The IEP indicated the student’s behavior impeded learning and specified a number of positive behavior interventions and supports to address the behavior. The IEP included specialized instruction in self-management and social skills. Two annual goals were developed for the student. One goal concerned reducing reported behavioral incidents by using adaptive strategies to reduce stealing and lying. The other concerned identifying realistic expectations for maintaining friendships. Progress reports for each goal were to be provided concurrently with the end of each school trimester. The IEP specified “reports from teachers or administration,” and “informal observations, observations during group time,” as the procedures for measuring progress towards the goals. Progress reports were provided to the student’s parent on November 30, 2018, and March 6, 2019.
In January 2019, the student sent inappropriate images electronically to a classmate. The student self-reported this behavior to a district employee. The district did not impose any disciplinary action, as the conduct did not occur while the student was at school or under the supervision of the school. In February, a classmate of the student reported to a district employee that the student had taken materials from an art room and was using the materials for self-harm. The district employee conducted an investigation and determined there was no threat to the student’s safety. The employee informed the student’s special education case manager of the allegation and the results of the investigation. In mid-March, the student received a one-day suspension for harassing a classmate. The district informed the parent of the January and March incidents. The district did not inform the parent of the February incident, though the parent later became aware of the incident through the student. Although the March 6 progress report was provided prior to the last incident, the first two incidents were not recorded in the progress report, and the progress report indicated the student was making adequate progress towards the goals.
The student’s IEP team met on May 13, 2019, to conduct the annual review of the student’s IEP. At the meeting, the team determined the student’s previous annual goals had not been met based, in part, on the January, February, and March incidents. The student’s IEP was revised to reflect the lack of progress towards the annual goals.
At the beginning of each school year a school district must have in effect an IEP for each student with a disability. A student’s IEP must include, among other things, a statement of when periodic reports on the progress the student is making towards annual goals will be provided (34 CFR § 300.320[a]). Neither state nor federal special education law specify the form or content of periodic reports of progress. In this complaint, a central question is whether the January and February incidents should have been included in the March progress report. The student’s IEP team answered that question in the affirmative in considering the incidents during the annual review of the IEP when determining whether the student’s previous annual goals had been met. In failing to include the information in the progress reports, the district failed to appropriately implement the student’s IEP with respect to the March progress report. However, this failure did not deprive the student of a free appropriate public education as the student continued to receive the supports and services specified in the IEP. Furthermore, the team did revise the student’s IEP to address the lack of progress exemplified by these incidents in May, and has included specific expectations for communication with the parent regarding any future incidents. The evidence considered by the department demonstrates the noncompliance was limited to the particular student in the complaint, and therefore no further corrective action will be required.
As an additional matter, the parent asserts the district employee who first received information regarding the student’s attempts to self-harm had an ethical obligation to inform the parent. Questions regarding the ethics of individual district employees are not governed by state or federal special education law and therefore cannot be resolved under the IDEA state complaint process.
This concludes our review of this complaint. This decision is final for the IDEA State Complaint process.
//signed BVH 7/12/2019
Barbara Van Haren, PhD
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support