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IDEA Complaint Decision 20-032

On March 9, 2020, (letter dated March 6, 2020), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (complainant) against XXXXX (district). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue identified is whether the district, during the 2019-2020 school year, properly conducted a timely special education evaluation.

School districts are required under state and federal special education law to locate, identify, and evaluate all resident students with disabilities who have not graduated from high school with a regular high school diploma, including resident students who attend home-based private education. (34 CFR § 300.111[a][1][i], Wis. Stat. § 115.77[1m][a]). Each district must establish procedures for accepting and processing referrals. (Wis. Stat. § 115.777[3][a]). All referrals must be in writing, and the district must accept and process all referrals submitted to the district. (Wis. Stat. § 115.777).

Upon receipt of a referral, the district must notify the parent of the referral and appoint an individualized education program (IEP) team. The IEP team must conduct a review of existing data to determine what additional data, if any, are needed to complete the evaluation. (34 CFR §§ 300.503[a][1] and 300.305[a]; Wis. Stat. §§ 115.782[2][b] and 115.792[2]). Districts are not required to convene an IEP team meeting for the purpose of reviewing existing data to determine whether additional assessments are necessary. (34 CFR § 300.305[b]).

Within 15 business days of receiving a referral, the district must send to the student’s parent a request for consent for additional assessments or notice that no additional assessments are necessary. (Wis. Stat. § 115.777[3][e]). An IEP team meeting must be conducted to determine eligibility within 60 days after receiving parental consent for evaluation or notifying parents that no additional assessments are needed. (34 CFR § 300.301[c]; Wis. Stat. § 115.78[3][a]).

On September 24, 2019, the parent emailed the district and requested an accommodation plan for the student under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504). On November 26, 2019, the student’s Section 504 team met to determine the student’s eligibility. Due to information about the extent of the student’s needs gathered as part of the 504 evaluation, the team determined the student should be referred for a special education evaluation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) before the team was comfortable completing the eligibility determination under Section 504.

The team referred the student for a special education evaluation that same day. On December 3, 2019, the district sent to the student’s parent the notice of referral, including a list of IEP team members, and a statement of parental rights. On December 6, 2019, within 15 business days of receiving the referral, the IEP team members, including the parent, participated in a review of existing data. The team determined additional testing was needed in the following areas: fine motor and sensory skills, cognitive and academic skills, social/emotional skills, and speech and language skills. The team also determined it needed to collect information on both the student’s health and social and emotional history. A notice of consent for testing was completed and sent to the parent on December 6, 2019. On December 10, 2019, the parent provided consent for additional testing.

On February 4, 2020, within the 60-day time limit, the IEP team met to determine the student’s eligibility for special education. The IEP team considered the student’s eligibility in the areas of Other Health Impairments (OHI) and Speech and Language Impairment (SL). The IEP team found the student met the criteria for both impairment areas and determined the student demonstrated a need for special education services under IDEA. At the conclusion of the special education evaluation meeting, the IEP team scheduled a meeting to develop the student’s IEP on February 14, 2020.

Following the evaluation meeting, an IEP team member reviewed documentation of the evaluation meeting and determined a clerical error was made. The last section of the evaluation report, which documents the team’s decision whether the student demonstrates a need for special education, was not marked. The department’s investigation verified through interviews that although the documentation was erroneously not completed, the IEP team fully discussed and determined the student’s need for special education at the February 4, 2020, meeting. The district conducted a timely special education evaluation.

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 the department’s website at http://dpi.wi.gov/sped/dispute-resolution for more information.

Sincerely,

//digitally signed 5/7/20
Barbara Van Haren, PhD
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support

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