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IDEA Complaint Decision 19-071

On October 11, 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 the complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2019-2020 school year, properly developed and implemented the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability, and properly responded to a request for an IEP team meeting.

Whether the district properly developed the IEP of a student with a disability.

School districts must provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each student with a disability. (34 CFR § 300.101[a]). A school district meets their obligation to provide a FAPE by developing and implementing an IEP that meets the student’s unique disability-related needs.

On August 29, 2019, an IEP team meeting was held to review and revise the student’s IEP. The student’s parent attended the meeting. The IEP team documented in the present levels of functional performance that the student has difficulty with anxiety, processing information and focusing attention. The IEP team identified that the student’s disability adversely affects the student’s ability to “maintain focus which can impact [the student’s] performance in the general curriculum including reading comprehension.” The IEP team determined the student had a disability-related need in the areas of reading comprehension and written language, and developed goals and aligned services to address these needs. During the complaint investigation, the parent expressed concern that the IEP team did not list “anxiety, processing information and focusing attention” as disability-related needs requiring IEP goals and services. Although the IEP team did not specifically list “anxiety, processing information and focusing attention” as disability-related needs, they identified these behaviors as having an adverse effect on the student’s progress toward meeting grade-level standards. The IEP team included special education services in the student’s IEP to address these effects and enable access, involvement and progress in the general education curriculum. These services included access to the resource room to eliminate distractions, an extended time when having difficulty processing information, and pacing breaks to help the student concentrate.

During the IEP team meeting, the parent requested the IEP team consider adding a math goal to the student’s IEP. District staff explained that the student had met the required math credits to graduate, but that he would receive support in the resource room with any math encountered in science and other subjects. In addition, the district requested to conduct academic achievement testing to determine if the student’s disability was affecting math performance. The parent refused to provide consent for additional testing. The parent also requested the addition of co-taught classes, a check-in with the case manager each week, and guided study notes for the student. All requests were added as supplementary aids and services in the student’s IEP. The student was to check-in with the case manager for 15 minutes once per week (this service was later removed during the November 1, 2019, IEP team meeting because it was causing the student greater anxiety); receive guided notes to provide clarification for better understanding when assignments or assessments are given; and participate in a co-taught English class.

During the complaint investigation, the parent expressed concern about the lack of a qualitative reading inventory (QRI) score in the measures used to analyze the student’s progress towards the student’s reading comprehension goal. The student’s IEP includes a reading comprehension goal with QRI scores in the baseline and level of attainment. Procedures for measuring progress include “informal assessments.” QRI is an informal reading inventory or assessment; however, on the quarterly progress report, the district indicated the skill was, “emerging” and did not provide data aligned with the goal’s baseline and level of attainment to support this determination. The district acknowledges this error and plans to include QRI data with each quarterly progress report moving forward. The student’s parent also expressed concern that the student’s postsecondary transition goals and plan were not reviewed during the August 29 IEP team meeting. During the complaint investigation, the district explained that it is district practice to discuss the transition plan at the annual IEP team meeting. The transition plan was discussed at the student’s May 2019 annual IEP team meeting.

The district properly developed the student’s IEP when the team identified the effects of the student’s disability and listed the student’s disability-related needs; developed goals and services to address the effects and needs; and considered input provided by the parent, which included adding supplementary aids and services suggested by the parent. However, the district did not properly review the student’s IEP to determine whether the annual reading comprehension goal for the student was being achieved when they failed to use data aligned with the baseline and level of attainment. (34 CFR § 300.324[b]). Within thirty days of this complaint decision, the district must use data aligned with the baseline and level of attainment to determine if the student is making sufficient progress to meet the reading comprehension goal, document the data on an interim progress report, and share the report with the parent. The district must also submit a copy of the IEP progress report to the department.

Whether the district properly implemented the IEP of a student with a disability.

Each school district must ensure that the student’s IEP is accessible to each regular education teacher, special education teacher, related services provider, and any other service provider who is responsible for its implementation. In addition, the school district must ensure each teacher and provider is informed of their specific responsibilities related to implementing the student’s IEP, including the specific accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided for the student in accordance with the IEP. (34 CFR § 300.323[d]).

The student’s August 29, 2019, IEP documents that the parent expressed concern regarding school staff not following the student’s IEP and asked the district to ensure that all of the student’s teachers read and follow the student’s IEP. During the complaint investigation, the student’s parent also expressed concern that the student was not receiving all supplementary aids and services because the district was allowing the student to choose if the student would access the service.

Prior to the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, the student’s IEP case manager met with each of the student’s teachers to review the student’s IEP and informed the teachers of their responsibility to implement the IEP, including supplementary aids and services. The student’s IEP requires the case manager to consult with the student’s general education teachers regarding IEP implementation on a monthly basis; the student’s case manager has communicated with staff by email and face-to-face more frequently than monthly since the start of the school year. It is also noted in the student’s IEP that a “fluid” Google document is used collaboratively among the school administrators, teachers, and staff to engage the parent in the education of the student and to help “ensure the team is ever aware of [the student’s] daily progress.” A listing of the student’s supplementary aids and services is provided at the bottom of the form as a weekly reminder to teachers responsible for implementation. Using the Google form, teachers provide information about the student’s attendance, academic progress, and behavior. Because the parent was having difficulty accessing the electronic folder, beginning on September 23, the district began sending paper copies home. The student picks up the Google form in the office, and the parent adds comments to the copies and sends them back to school; however, on some days, the forms have not been available to the parent. The district explained during the complaint investigation that starting in term two, they reduced the amount of feedback to twice a week and plan to continue to reduce feedback to the parent as the year progresses in an effort to increase student self-advocacy and preparation for postsecondary transition. The parent has expressed concern to the district and during the complaint investigation that daily progress reports to the parent are desired. The Google form is a communication tool the district has chosen to help engage the parent in the education of the child. The IEP does not specify the frequency that the form will be provided to the parent. Within thirty days, the district must revise the IEP to clarify the use of the Google form including frequency, amount and duration, and submit a copy of the revised IEP to the department.

At the start of the 2019-20 school year, teachers were asking the student if the student wanted to use the supplementary aids and services specified in the student’s IEP, primarily access to the resource room and modified assignments. At times, the student chose not to use the services when they were offered. The parent expressed concern about this and requested the district call the parent when the student refuses to access the services so that the parent can discuss it with the student. The district no longer asks the student’s preference but provides the services as specified in the IEP. The district did not fully implement the student’s IEP when the services were offered to the student rather than provided. If the IEP team determines that specific supplementary services are required, then provision of these services cannot be contingent upon student preference. Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the department must develop a corrective action plan to ensure full implementation of IEPs, and submit a copy of the corrective action plan to the department.

Whether the district properly responded to a request for an IEP team meeting.

The parent of a child with a disability has the right to request an IEP team meeting at any time, and the district must grant any reasonable parent request. The district must respond to the parent’s request within a reasonable amount of time, and schedule the meeting at a mutually agreed on time and place. (34 CFR § 300.322).

On September 20, 2019, the parent requested an IEP team meeting to discuss concerns. The district and parent mutually agreed to contact the Wisconsin Special Education Mediation System (WSEMS) to arrange a facilitated IEP team meeting, and the joint written request was made on September 26. The parent subsequently declined to participate in the facilitated IEP team meeting, and the request for a facilitated IEP team meeting was terminated by WSEMS. On October 15, the district sent the parent an invitation to attend an IEP team meeting scheduled for November 1, 2019. The parent declined to attend. The district provided an opportunity for the parent to participate in an IEP team meeting. The district properly responded to the parent’s request for an IEP team meeting.

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. These issues may be addressed through other dispute resolutions, including mediation and due process hearings. Visit http://dpi.wi.gov/sped/dispute-resolution for more information.

Sincerely,

//digitally signed by BVH 12/5/19
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