On December 23, 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 issues are whether the district, during the 2020-21 school year:
- Properly identified who was authorized to make special education decisions for a student with a disability; and
- Properly responded to a parent’s request for an individualized education program (IEP) meeting.
Whether the district properly identified who was authorized to make special education decisions for a student with a disability.
School districts are responsible for identifying the student’s parent for the purpose of special education decision-making. In the case of a student who resides in foster care, unless otherwise notified, the district should presume the student’s biological or adoptive parent remains the parent for purposes of education decision-making. A foster parent may be given educational decision-making authority by a transfer of guardianship or legal custody or by other court order. (Wis. Stat. § 115.76[a]). A court order granting physical custody does not automatically make an individual the student’s legal custodian and does not grant that individual educational decision-making authority. (Wis. Stat. §§ 48.02, 48.02). For purposes of educational decision-making, the student’s biological parent is presumed to have authority unless a court terminates the parent’s parental right and assigns decision-making authority to someone else.
A court placed the student who is the subject of this complaint in the temporary physical custody of a relative via court order on July 25, 2018. On December 2, 2020, the student’s mother contacted the complainant, concerned that the district was excluding her from communication regarding her child’s education. On December 2, 2020, the complainant contacted the district on the mother’s behalf and informed the district that although the student was temporarily placed with the relative, the student’s mother retained parental legal rights, including educational decision-making authority. The district acknowledges they had been communicating with the student’s relative rather than the student’s mother. Per the students’ IEP documents, the relative was invited to and attended the student’s IEP meeting as the student’s guardian on February 18, 2020. Documentation showed that the relative agreed to change the IEP of the student without a meeting on September 5, 2020.
The district did not properly identify who was authorized to make special education decisions for a student with a disability. Within two weeks of the date of this decision, the district is directed to conduct an IEP team meeting that includes the student’s parent to ensure the student’s parent understands the contents of the IEP and makes any necessary revisions. The district must submit the results of this meeting to the department by March 19, 2021.
In addition, within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must review and, if necessary, revise district policies and procedures to ensure that individuals who are authorized to make special education decisions for a student with a disability are properly identified. The district must submit the results of this review to the department by April 2, 2021.
Whether the district properly responded to a parent’s request for an IEP meeting.
A parent of a student with a disability may request an IEP team meeting at any time, and school districts should grant any such reasonable request. If the district denies the parent’s request for an IEP team meeting, the district must, within a reasonable amount of time, provide the parent with a notice of refusal, including an explanation of why the district has determined that conducting the meeting is not necessary. (34 CFR § 300.503).
The student’s mother attended a parent-teacher conference with two of the student’s teachers on October 29, 2020. The parent did not request an IEP team meeting during this conference or at any other time. Consequently, the district was not required to either schedule an IEP team meeting or provide the parent with a notice of refusal.
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.