On June 18, 2021, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from ### (complainant) against #### (district). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue identified is whether the district, during the 2020-21 school year, properly identified, located, and evaluated a student with a disability.
A school district must ensure that all children with disabilities residing in the district and who are in need of special education and related services are identified, located, and evaluated. 34 CFR § 300.111(a). This responsibility is often referred to as “child find.” Licensed staff employed by the school district who reasonably believe a student is a student with a disability must refer the student to the district for a special education evaluation. Wis. Stat. § 115.777.
The adult student who is the subject of this complaint was a Senior during the 2020-21 school year. From September 8, 2020, through February 1, 2021, the district was operating a primarily virtual model at the high school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The student’s attendance was inconsistent, and district staff utilized several strategies, including phone calls, texts, and emails to the student and the family, placing the student in an advisory class for support credit recovery, and the involvement of multiple student services staff. When district staff learned that the student’s work schedule might be conflicting with class attendance, they offered the student recorded video lessons to be completed at convenient times. When it became clear that the student had not received enough credits to graduate, district staff collaborated with the family and provided a district-approved alternative pathway to a regular high school diploma. In June 2021, the student completed the alternate pathway and graduated with peers. Interviewed district staff offered the student additional support and flexibility but did not have reason to believe that the student was a student with a disability. There is no evidence that any other staff had concerns that the student may be a student with a disability or that the adult student or the parent inquired about or made a referral for special education services. The district did not violate special education law in failing to identify, locate, or evaluate this student as a student with a disability.
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.
Paul A. Manriquez
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support