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IDEA Complaint Decision 21-023

On June 17, 2021, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from ### (parent) against the #### School District (district). This is the department’s decision regarding the complaint. The issues identified are whether the district, during the 2020-21 school year:

  • Properly determined placement of a student with a disability; and
  • Properly developed and implemented the student’s individualized education program (IEP) regarding behavior and parent communication.

Whether the district properly determined placement of a student with a disability.

The placement decision must be made based on the student’s IEP and individualized needs. Each school district must ensure that to the maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities are educated with students who are nondisabled, and removal from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. IEP teams may consider placing a student in a school other than the school the student would normally attend. Wis. Stat. § 115. 79; 34 CFR § 300.116.

The student’s IEP team met to determine the student’s placement on April 20, 2021. The IEP team determined the student’s placement would be the elementary school in the district the student would normally attend. The IEP team determined the district would provide specially designed instruction, supplementary aids and services, and related services to address the student’s disability-related needs. On April 21, 2021, the parent requested the district transfer the student to a different elementary school within the district pursuant to the district’s general student transfer policy. The district denied the parent’s request. Applications of a district’s general student policy are not subject to review through the IDEA complaint process. The information reviewed by the department during the course of its investigation does not indicate the student has needs that cannot be met in the school the student normally attends or require placement in a different school within the district. The district properly determined the student’s placement.

Whether the district properly developed and implemented the student’s individualized education program (IEP) regarding behavior and parent communication.

School districts must provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each student with a disability by developing a program that meets the student’s unique needs, documenting that program in the student’s IEP, and implementing the program as articulated. 34 CFR § 300.324. Any time an IEP team determines a student’s behavior impedes their learning or that of others, the IEP team must consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports to address that behavior. 34 CFR § 300.324(a)(2). The amount of services to be provided must be stated in a manner appropriate to the service and must include anticipated frequency, including the amount. In the case where it is impossible or inappropriate to describe supplementary aids and services in daily or weekly allotments of time, the IEP must clearly describe the circumstances under which the service will be provided. 34 CFR § 300.320(a).

The student’s IEP in effect for the 2020-2021 school year was developed at an IEP team meeting on April 23, 2020. At this time, the school district was offering virtual instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students in the district returned for in-person instruction in January 2021. When students returned to in-person instruction, the parent contacted the school principal to request a “meeting” to discuss the student’s behavior and school-to-home communication. In February, the parent and school staff met to discuss these concerns. The district did not consider this an IEP team meeting. However, district staff and the parent discussed several issues related to the provision of special education for the student, and changes that were made should have been determined and documented through an IEP team meeting or through use of the I-10 form (Notice of Agreed-upon Changes to IEP without an IEP team meeting). On February 25, 2021, the district sent the parent an email outlining plans for communicating with the parent and describing various behavior supports and strategies that would be applied to address the behaviors that were impeding the student’s learning. Documentation from the parent and the district and interviews with district staff support the conclusion that the supports and services were implemented for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year as outlined in the email dated February 25, 2021.

The district agrees that the February meeting should have been constituted as an IEP team meeting and that given changes in the student’s behavior, the IEP team should have met to consider revising the student’s behavior intervention plan, which had last been updated in March 2020. The district is already taking steps to inform staff of their obligation to appropriately conduct IEP team meetings and respond appropriately to changing student behavior by convening an IEP team meeting. Within 30 days, the district shall submit to the department a corrective action plan outlining the additional steps it will take to ensure district staff appropriately convene IEP team meetings to consider and document the use of positive behavior supports and interventions when a student’s changing behavior impedes his or her learning. Within 30 days, the district shall convene the student’s IEP team to consider the student’s current behavior needs and carefully document the amount and frequency and any supports or services necessary to address those needs. Within 10 days of this meeting, the district must submit a copy of the revised IEP to the department.

Following the February meeting, the district began providing the parent a daily communication log. The daily communication log continued through the end of the school year. The student’s IEP dated April 20, 2021, included the provision of the communication log to the parent on a daily basis. While the communication log should have been discussed and documented at an IEP team meeting in February, the district provided it, and its use is currently documented appropriately in the student’s IEP. No corrective action is required to address this noncompliance.

This concludes our review of this complaint. All noncompliance identified above must be corrected within one year of the date of this decision. 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.

Sincerely,

Paul A. Manriquez
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support

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