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IDEA Complaint Decision 19-045

On June 20, 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 this complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2018-19 school year, properly implemented the individualized education programs (IEPs) for two students with disabilities regarding specialized transportation.

A student’s IEP team is responsible for determining whether transportation between school and other locations is necessary in order for the student to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) (34 CFR 300.34[c][16]). If a student’s IEP team determines that supports or modifications are needed in order for the student to be transported so that the student can receive FAPE, the student must receive the necessary transportation and supports at no cost to the parents (Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 156 / Monday, August 14, 2006 / Rules and Regulations, p.46576).

The two students who are the subject of this complaint attend school at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf (WSD). The students do not reside at WSD during the week; rather, they come to the school during the day but reside and sleep at home. On March 26, 2019, after a move to a residence within the boundary of the district, the parent enrolled the students into the district. The next day, the district requested and received from the previous district the educational records of the students. Due to spring breaks, the IEP team meetings to review and revise the IEPs and determine placement were held on April 10, 2019. During the meetings, the IEP team reviewed the students’ IEPs developed by the previous district and discussed daily transportation for the students. The IEPs from the previous district included specialized transportation twice daily to and from WSD. Due to the students’ behavior and communication needs, the parent provided the transportation and was reimbursed by the previous district at a rate of $0 .545/mile for a maximum of 80 miles per day ($43.60 per day). During the April 10 IEP team meeting, the district offered to provide a van to transport the students from their home in the district to and from WSD in Delavan. The parent requested to continue transporting the students in the parent’s vehicle for the remainder of the school year in order to smoothly transition the students from their new home to WSD. A representative from WSD, who was attending the IEP team meetings and documenting the decisions of the IEP team, asked if the district agreed to adopt the students’ IEPs from the previous district, and the district agreed to adopt the IEPs.

The district informed the parent that the district’s finance office would determine the rate of reimbursement to the parent for providing transportation for the students. The parent began providing transportation from the district to WSD when school resumed following spring break on April 1. On April 20, the parent received a transportation contract from the district offering to reimburse the parent $5.06 per student, per day, the standard rate of reimbursement determined by the district’s average cost per student for bus transportation incurred by the district. The parent did not agree to the contract but continued to transport the two students to and from WSD for the remainder of the 2018 19 school year. When the parent rejected the district’s contract, the district maintained its obligation to provide specialized transportation as required by the students’ IEPs. There is no documentation showing the district attempted to either negotiate a reimbursement rate to cover the parent’s costs of transporting the students or offered transportation with appropriate accommodations to meet the needs of the students as determined by the IEP team.

The students currently live 23 miles from WSD. The reimbursement of $10.12 per day offered by the district does not cover the cost of transporting the students from their home to WSD and back daily. The district must provide to the parent reimbursement using a rate commensurate with state/federal mileage reimbursement for the days the parent provided transportation for the students between April 1, 2019, and June 7, 2019. The district must submit to the department evidence of payment to the parent within sixty days of this decision.

In addition, prior to the start of the 2019-20 school year, the IEP team must reconvene to determine the students’ transportation needs, including any supports or modifications needed in order for the students to be transported to school. The district must clearly document in the students’ IEPs if the district will provide transportation and any needed supports or modifications, or if the parent will provide transportation and be reimbursed by the district for the cost of transporting the students. The district must submit a copy of each of the student’s revised IEPs to the department within thirty days of this decision.

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.

Sincerely,

//digitally signed by BVH 8/19/19
Barbara Van Haren, PhD
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support
BVH:abc

For questions about this information, contact DPI Sped Team (608) 266-1781