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IDEA Complaint Decision 21-036

On September 23, 2021, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from ##### (complainant) against the #### (district). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, since September 23, 2020:

  • Properly implemented the student’s individualized education program (IEP) regarding postsecondary transition goals and services;
  • Properly implemented the student’s IEP regarding additional services due to extended school closures;
  • Properly changed the student’s educational placement; and
  • Properly responded to a request from the parent of a student with a disability for an IEP Team meeting.

Whether the district properly implemented the student’s individualized education program (IEP) regarding postsecondary transition goals and services.

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 disability-related needs, documenting that program in the student’s IEP, and implementing the program as articulated. 34 CFR § 300.324. Beginning when the student is 14 and updated each year after, the IEP must include a statement of postsecondary goals, transition services, and a course of study needed to assist the student in reaching those goals. Wis. Stat. § 115.787(2)(g). In Wisconsin, the postsecondary goals, transition services, and course of study are documented together in a form called the postsecondary transition plan (PTP). At the beginning of each school year, districts must have an IEP in effect for each student with a disability. Wis. Stat. § 115.787(1), 34 CFR § 300.323(a).

On December 7, 2020, the IEP team met to develop the student’s postsecondary transition goals, transition skills, and a course of study for the 2020-21 school year based on their interests and needs. The complainant is concerned that three of the transition services were not implemented during the Spring of 2021. There is evidence that two of the services took place. However, staff admits that one service was not provided in that they did not support the student and family to explore places to live after graduation. During record reviews, it was discovered that the student’s transition services and course of study were only written for the 2020-21 school year. The district did not implement all required transition services for the 2020-21 school year and did not develop postsecondary transition services and a course of study for the student for the 2021-2022 school year. Within ten days of the date of this decision, the district must conduct an IEP meeting to develop transition services and a course of study for the student and discuss whether compensatory services are required for the failure to develop and implement the IEP in those areas. The district must send a copy of the IEP to the department within ten days of the IEP team meeting.

Whether the district properly implemented the student’s IEP regarding additional services due to extended school closures.

In May 2020, the department issued Bulletin 20-01 requiring school districts to consider whether additional services were required to provide FAPE to each student with an IEP due to statewide school closures. See department Bulletin 20-01. Districts, through IEP team meetings or through procedures to make changes to an IEP outside of a meeting, were to identify students that regressed or failed to make progress during the period of school closure. Determinations about these services, including the extent and duration of services required, were to be made on an individual basis and in a collaborative manner. These additional services were to be designed to supplement, not displace, the student’s existing educational program.

On May 14, 2021, the IEP team determined the student would receive additional services during the summer. Specifically, the student was to receive practice on employment skills in a yet-to-be-determined community job site, assistance auditing college courses related to their postsecondary employment goal, and work on other transition services. Later that month, district staff secured a job site to practice employment skills in a setting consistent with the student’s postsecondary transition goal and hired the staff to implement the additional services. The district began providing the additional services in early June.

On July 14, the student was involved in a behavioral incident, and on July 15, the job site coordinator notified district staff and the parent that the student could no longer return to the job site. The parties agree that beginning on July 15, 2021, the district did not provide the student the employment skills portion of the previously determined additional services. The IEP team has taken steps to remedy the situation, and the student is being provided with an additional 1440 minutes of specially designed instruction throughout the 2021-22 school year to account for the failure to provide the additional services. The district must provide the department with a record of the completed additional service minutes before the complaint can be closed.

Whether the district properly changed the student’s educational placement.

The IEP Team must determine the placement for each student with a disability based on the student’s IEP. Wis. Stat. § 115.78(2)(c). The district must provide the parent with prior written notice whenever it proposes to change the educational placement of a student with a disability. 34 CFR § 300.503.

The concern expressed by the parent is that the student’s placement page lacks the required specificity and that the student’s termination from the job site amounted to a change of placement outside of an IEP team meeting. The placement page states the IEP would be implemented in the school district/community setting. District staff explained that the use of this language is typical district practice. Students may work at multiple job sites, or site assignments may change for a variety of reasons outside district control. District staff attempt to strike a balance by using the term “community” to allow flexibility while distinguishing the placement from a traditional school setting. The IEP did not commit the district to a particular job site on the placement page. However, ongoing conversations between district staff and the parent ensured the parent remained informed of the specific location of the student’s job site. When the student’s placement at the job site was terminated in July 2021, the placement on the IEP placement page was still current and accurate.

On August 23, 2021, the IEP team met to review and revise the student’s IEP. During that meeting, the parent requested that the student work on employment skills at a job site that matched the student’s postsecondary employment goal. The IEP team considered the parent’s request and responded by adding new disability-related needs, revising IEP goals, and providing more specific special education services to better align with the student’s postsecondary goals, as well as in response to the behavioral incident over the summer. At the conclusion of the meeting, the IEP team did not reach a consensus as the parent felt the proposed site aligned well with the student’s postsecondary transition goals. District staff investigated this possibility but determined it was not feasible at that time. On September 16, the IEP team met and discussed and rejected the job site placement proposed by the parent. The general agreement of the IEP team, with the exception of the parent, was that it was appropriate for the student to work on employment and vocational skills at two readily available job sites. The IEP team also agreed to provide the student with the missed additional services time to focus specifically on their postsecondary goals, and the district would continue to practice discrete skills and seek employment opportunities for the student in line with the student’s postsecondary employment goal. In discussing the student’s job placement, the district worked toward reaching consensus among all IEP team members, but when that was not possible, the district appropriately made the determination and provided the parent with proper prior written notice. The district did not improperly change the student’s placement.

Whether the district properly responded to a request from the parent of a student with a disability for an IEP Team meeting.

A parent of a student with a disability may request an IEP team meeting at any time, and 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.

On July 19, the parent emailed the IEP team requesting an emergency IEP team meeting to discuss where the employment skills portion of the additional services would be implemented, given the student could no longer return to the job site. On July 22, the IEP team met, but district staff considered the meeting a “problem-solving meeting” rather than an IEP team meeting. The district acknowledges that the July 22 meeting should have been an IEP team meeting. The district has provided training to the staff involved in this incident as well as district-wide professional development on this topic. No additional corrective action will be required as a result of this noncompliance.

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 or contact the special education team at (608) 266-1781.

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