On December 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 issue is whether the district, during the 2019-2020 school year, improperly ended a student's eligibility for special education.
A district must reevaluate a child with a disability if the district determines that the educational or related needs of the child, including the child's academic performance, warrant a reevaluation or if the child's parent or teacher requests a reevaluation. A reevaluation may not occur more than once a year unless the district and parent agree otherwise and must occur at least once every three years unless the district and parent agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary. (34 CFR § 300.303 and Wis. Stat. § 115.782[a]). The purpose of a reevaluation is to determine whether a child continues to be a child with a disability and if so, the nature and extent of the special education and related services that the child needs. (34 CFR § 300.15). As part of a reevaluation the individualized education program (IEP) team must review existing evaluation data on the child, previous interventions and the effects of those interventions, current assessments, information provided by the parents of the child, and observations by teachers and related services providers before determining the student's eligibility for special education. (34 CFR § 300.305 and Wis. Stat. § 115.782[b]). In addition, the determination as to whether a child continues to be a child with a disability must be made by the IEP team. (Wis. Stat. § 115.78).
The student who is the subject of this complaint was identified for special education under the impairment area of autism. The student's individualized education program (IEP) included sensory breaks, extended time on assignments, and the creation of social stories when feeling anxious. The student's IEP also included specially designed instruction in functional skills for ten minutes per day. In addition, the student received school counseling services, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy as related services outlined in the IEP.
The student's three-year reevaluation was due in January of 2020. The IEP team conducted additional assessments as part of the reevaluation, including a behavioral assessment, classroom observations, a speech and language assessment, and an occupational therapy assessment. The IEP team met on December 3, 2019, to conduct the reevaluation. The IEP team reviewed existing data about the student, including information on previous evaluations, and previous interventions and their effects. The team also reviewed the results of the additional assessments and classroom observations that were conducted by members of the IEP team. The IEP team noted the progress the student had made both academically and functionally. The team then began discussing the criteria for the impairment area of autism as specified in Wisconsin Administrative Code Pl 11.36. District staff noted that the student did not display problems which extended beyond speech and language to other aspects of social communication. The student's parent became concerned that this might end the student's eligibility for special education and asked to take a break from the IEP team meeting. After a brief discussion with the school staff, the student's parent asked if the I EP team meeting could be adjourned and rescheduled as the parent would like to invite other individuals to the meeting. School staff adjourned the meeting and the parent and school staff left. The IEP team meeting was not rescheduled. The checklist and evaluation report were completed outside of an IEP team meeting, indicating the student was no longer a student with a disability. The student's parents were not included in the completion of the checklist and evaluation report. By making the student's eligibility determination outside of the I EP team meeting and not involving the full IEP team, including the student's parents, the district improperly ended the student's eligibility for special education.
Within 20 days of the date of this decision, the IEP team must convene and determine whether the student continues to be a student with a disability, and revise the IEP, as necessary, per the reevaluation. Within 15 days of the date of the IEP team meeting, the district must submit a copy of the reevaluation report to the department, and a copy of the IEP, if revised.
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 I DEA State Complaint process. These issues may be addressed through other dispute resolutions, including mediation and due process hearings. Visit the department's website at http://dpi.wi.gov/sped/dispute-resolution for more information.
//signed by BVH 2/11/2020
Barbara Van Haren, PhD
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support