On March 8, 2020 (form dated March 6, 2020), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (complainant) against the XXXXX (district). Department staff subsequently verified that the Colby School District was closed pursuant to orders by public health departments. Department staff determined that due to the circumstances of the district’s closure, it was not possible with reasonable efforts to obtain all relevant information necessary to make an independent determination as to whether the district was violating the requirements of state or federal special education law. Therefore, the department extended the 60-day time limit for resolving this complaint due to the existence of these exceptional circumstances, as provided in 34 CFR § 300.152(b)(1)(i). On March 27, 2020, the department notified the parent and the district it would resume its investigation and issue a final written determination as soon as circumstances enabled the department to do so. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues, which pertain to the 2019-20 school year, are addressed below.
Whether the district properly conducted an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting for a student with a disability.
School districts must ensure the IEP team for each student with a disability includes the student’s parent, at least one regular education teacher of the student (if the student is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment), at least one special education teacher of the student, and a local educational agency (LEA) representative. A required IEP team participant may be excused from attending an IEP team meeting, in whole or in part, when the meeting involves a modification to, or discussion of, the participant’s area of the curriculum or related services if, in writing, the parent and the district agree to the excusal, and the IEP team participant submits written input into the development of the IEP prior to the meeting. Only required IEP team participants need to be excused in writing. (34 CFR § 300.321; Wis. Stat. § 115.78).
During an IEP team meeting on November 11, 2019, the student’s regular education teacher left before the meeting concluded without a proper written excusal. The district acknowledges this error. The IEP team reconvened on November 22, 2019, and all team members were present for the entirety of this meeting. As such, no student-specific corrective action is required. The district is engaging in corrective action to ensure the error does not recur. Within thirty days of the date of this decision, the district shall submit to the department documentation of the corrective actions taken, including the training of staff.
Whether the district properly implemented the student’s IEP and ensured staff responsible for implementing the student’s IEP were informed of their specific responsibilities.
School districts must provide each student with a disability a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment. School districts meet their obligation to provide FAPE to each student with a disability, in part, by developing and implementing each student’s IEP. The IEP must include clear descriptions of the amount, frequency, location, and duration of services, so the school district’s commitment of resources is clear to the parent and all involved in developing and implementing the IEP. Staff responsible for implementing the student’s IEP must be informed of their specific responsibilities. (34 CFR § 300.323; Wis. Stat. § 115.787).
The student’s parent described several instances when supports or accommodations for the student were not provided by district staff as required by the IEP. When interviewed, some staff said they did not always have access to IEPs and, as such, did not fully understand their responsibilities. The district acknowledges there were instances of teachers not having access to IEPs, and on at least one occasion, the IEP was not implemented as written. The district did not properly ensure staff responsible for implementing the student’s IEP were informed of their specific responsibilities, and the district did not properly implement the student’s IEP. The district is engaging in corrective action to ensure these errors do not recur. Within thirty days of the date of this decision, the district shall submit to the department documentation of the corrective actions taken. During the 2020-21 school year, the department will conduct verification activities to ensure compliance with these requirements.
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. For more information, visit the department’s website at http://dpi.wi.gov/sped/dispute-resolution.
//digitally signed 7/7/2020
Barbara Van Haren, PhD
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support