On August 11, 2020 (form dated August 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). The issue identified is whether the district, during the 2019-20 school year, properly implemented the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability.
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. IEPs must be implemented as written. (34 CFR § 300.323; Wis. Stat. § 115.787).
On February 6, 2020, an IEP team met to develop an annual IEP and determine placement for the student who is the subject of this complaint. The IEP team developed annual goals addressing reading and transition. The team included 44 minutes weekly of specially designed instruction and several supplementary aids and services to support the student in general education and special education environments. The student’s IEP was implemented beginning on February 17, 2020.
On March 13, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 health emergency, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) issued a statewide order closing school effective March 18, 2020. On March 17, 2020, DHS issued a new statewide order closing school for all in-person pupil instruction and extracurricular activities. DHS extended this order until June 30, 2020. The district chose to close all its school buildings as of March 16, 2020. By March 20, 2020, the district began providing all students with distance learning via virtual instruction.
The district assigned the student to a virtual classroom and provided the student a Chromebook to receive both general education and specially designed instruction through distance learning. Although the student’s special education teacher contacted the student multiple times during the closure, the district acknowledges the teacher did not provide 44 minutes per week of specially designed instruction as required by the student’s IEP. While it is commendable that the district responded quickly to the public health emergency and extended school closure by changing the method educational services were provided to all students, the district should have also arranged to provide the specially designed instruction through distance learning. The student’s IEP was not properly implemented from March 20, 2020, until the end of the school year.
On September 1, 2020, the IEP team, including the parents, met to determine the extent of the additional services required for the failure to implement the student’s IEP. The IEP team, including the parent, determined the student did not require additional services as the student still continued to make progress. No additional student specific correction is required. Further, the district also submitted to the department a plan that ensures IEPs will be implemented as written in the event the district is required to move from in-person to a remote learning platform. Therefore, no additional corrective action is required.
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.
Barbara Van Haren, PhD
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support