On March 1, 2022 (form dated March 1, 2022), 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 issue identified is whether the district, during the 2021-22 school year, properly implemented the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability regarding daily meetings with a case manager to “check-in/out”, organizational support and strategies, behavioral supports, weekly communication between general and special education staff, and weekly emails and notifications sent home about projects, assignments, and events.
School districts meet their obligation to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to each student with a disability, in part, by developing a program based on the student’s unique, disability-related needs that are reasonably calculated to enable the student to make progress appropriate in light of the student’s circumstances, documenting that program in the IEP, and implementing the program as articulated in the IEP. 34 CFR § 300.22; Wis. Stat. § 115.787.
The student that is the subject of this complaint requires support to build skills towards organizing materials, participating in class, and completing assignments fully and on time. The IEP team held an annual meeting on October 25, 2021. The IEP team revised the student’s behavior goal, updated terms for the student’s use of breaks, and introduced software to limit website access on the student’s assigned laptop computer.
In the weeks after the annual IEP team meeting, the complainant had ongoing concerns about the student missing assignments and believed that the student’s daily “check-in/out” meetings with the case manager were not effective for the student due to being held during the final period of the school day. The IEP team met to address these concerns on January 20, 2022. The primary change was devising a morning check-in and afternoon check-out system.
The district provided behavior supports throughout the school year as described in the IEP. Daily “check-in/out” meetings to help identify behavior targets and progress occurred. Preferential seating has been consistently implemented. The student had access to sensory and movement breaks. Teachers had used redirecting strategies when the student was not engaged during class, including the use of nonacademic websites. Software to restrict access began in October. However, the student soon managed to bypass the restrictions. Additionally, the software was on the student’s laptop, not on the desktop computers the student used in the computer lab. District staff began restricting physical access to the laptop when classwork did not require it and more physical monitoring of the student’s required computer use.
District staff implemented organizational supports and strategies as described in the IEP. Teachers supplied notes and access to checklists for the student to participate and stay on task. The case manager and student practiced using an electronic calendar and navigating the district’s electronic assignment system. The complainant reported that missing assignments were often either not flagged as missing or not available to complete. District staff reported regularly uploading all class assignments into the district’s electronic assignment system. Despite challenges, the district provided opportunities for the student to turn in missing assignments.
The frequency of missing assignments created doubt from the complainant’s perspective about whether daily “check-in/out” meetings with the student and weekly communication between general and special education staff took place. During this complaint investigation, the district demonstrated that staff provided these services in accordance with the IEP as they understood it. However, the complainant and district staff did not have a shared understanding of the purpose of the meetings. The complainant believed one of the purposes of the daily meetings was to check and prevent missing assignments, while staff relied on the IEP’s description of the purpose as “to help identify behavior targets and progress.” During the January 20, 2022, IEP team meeting, the IEP was revised regarding the purposes and structure of the daily meetings. No additional action is required to address this concern.
The complainant expected to be alerted to missing assignments and other concerns through weekly communication. Communication with the complainant was described in the IEP at the beginning of the school year as “weekly emails and notifications sent home about projects, assignments, and events.” The complainant reported that this communication did not occur consistently. After the IEP team meeting on January 20, 2022, communication was described as “weekly communication between regular education staff and [the complainant].” The complainant did not recall the discussion of this change in the IEP team meeting, did not want weekly communications from each teacher and reported not receiving them weekly. Since the IEP team meeting on January 20, 2022, district staff and the complainant have not had a shared understanding of communications to be provided to the complainant.
The district did not supply evidence to demonstrate consistent implementation of weekly communication to the complainant as described in the IEPs in effect for the 2021-22 school year. Within 30 days of this complaint decision, the IEP team must reconvene to come to a shared understanding of the communication to be provided to the complainant. The district shall provide the department with documentation of the revised IEP within 10 days of the meeting. No further corrective action will be required.
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.