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IDEA Complaint Decision 21-057

On November 30, 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 identified are whether the district, beginning November 30, 2020:

  • Properly determined who had legal educational decision-making authority for an adult student with a disability; and
  • Properly developed a statement of transition services for a student with a disability as part of the student’s individualized education program (IEP).

School districts are responsible for identifying who has authority for special education decision-making under state and federal special education law for each student with a disability. When a student with a disability reaches the age of 18, all rights afforded to the parents under federal and state special education law transfer to the adult student, and the district must inform the adult student and their parents of the transfer of rights. If a court appoints a legal guardian for the student, special education decision-making rights for the student usually are granted to the legal guardian. Wis. Stat. § 115.803(2) and (3). After special education decision-making rights transfer to an adult student, the student’s parents maintain the right to receive all special education notices, including notification of upcoming IEP meetings, prior written notice, and copies of any relevant evaluation and IEPs. Wis. Stat. § 115.803(1).

The student who is the subject of this complaint is an adult, and the complainant (the student’s parent) is the student’s court-appointed legal guardian. The district notified the student and parent of the transfer of rights a year prior to the student’s 18th birthday through various notices, IEP team meetings, and other meetings. On December 2, 2020, less than a month after the student turned 18, the district sent a notice to the parents and the student informing them of the rights that had been transferred and asked the student and parents to notify district staff if a court had appointed a legal guardian for the student. The student’s parents did not provide any evidence of guardianship to the district; therefore, the district presumed all rights transferred to the adult student on their 18th birthday per state law requirements. The district continued to send the student’s parents special education notices, and the parent participated in an IEP team meeting on February 24, 2021, without objection from the adult student. The district appropriately requested from the student’s parents information regarding whether the student had a court-appointed legal guardian, but the parents did not provide the information. Given the limited information made available to them, the district did not improperly determine who had legal educational decision-making authority for the adult student with a disability.

To the extent appropriate, and with the consent of the parent or adult student, an LEA must invite a representative of any outside agency likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services such as the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). 34 CFR §300.321(b)(3). The decision of whether it would be appropriate to invite DVR depends on factors such as whether the IEP team will discuss transition services, whether other agencies are likely to provide transition services, and whether the parent or adult student provides consent to invite them. Letter to Caplan (OSEP, 2008). Beginning during the school year when a student with a disability reaches age 14 and updated each year after, the student’s IEP must include a statement of appropriate, measurable postsecondary goals for the student related to training, education, employment, and where appropriate, independent living skills. Wis. Stat. § 115.787(2)(g). The IEP must also include transition services needed to assist the student in reaching those goals. Wis. Stat. § 115.787(2)(g). Transition services mean a coordinated set of activities designed to be within a results-oriented process that is focused on improving academic and functional achievement to facilitate a student’s movement from school to post-school life. The activities are based on the student’s needs and must consider the student’s strengths, preferences, and interests. The activities include instruction, related services, community experiences, development of post-school adult living objectives, acquisition of daily living skills if appropriate, and a functional vocational evaluation if appropriate. 34 CFR 300.43(a). In Wisconsin, the postsecondary goals, transition services, and course of study are documented together in a form called the postsecondary transition plan (PTP).

On February 24, 2021, the IEP team met to discuss the student’s IEP and develop the student’s transition goals and services through the PTP. The complainant is concerned that DVR services were not offered, nor were agency staff invited to the meeting. District staff provided evidence that information about DVR services had been provided to the family and that staff routinely involve DVR in the school community. In preparation for the February 24, 2021, IEP team meeting, district staff felt it was unlikely that DVR would be responsible for paying for transition services during the term of the IEP. At the meeting, the team discussed the student’s progress toward graduation and a variety of placement options available after high school. The parent informed district staff that the student would be attending a private high school program. As a result, the postsecondary goal in education or training was updated to attending the private high school program, and the transition service became that the family would work with the private school for further education. Attendance at another high school is not an appropriate postsecondary goal because it does not focus on a student’s goals for life after high school. Further, the transition service listed is not a coordinated set of activities based on the student’s strengths and needs focused on improving academic and functional achievement to facilitate a transition to life after high school. The district failed to properly develop transition services for the student at the February 24, 2021, IEP team meeting. No corrective action is required because the district is no longer responsible for providing FAPE for the student. If the student re-enrolls, the district must hold an IEP team meeting to develop appropriate postsecondary transition goals in the area of education and transition services.

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