On March 11, 2022 (form dated March 11, 2022), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from #### (complainants) against the#### (district). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district properly afforded the parents of three students with disabilities a meaningful opportunity to participate in meetings of the student's individualized education program (IEP) teams held on February 17, 2022.
Each public agency must take steps to ensure that one or both parents of a child with a disability are present at each IEP team meeting or are afforded the opportunity to participate. In developing each student’s IEP, the IEP team must consider the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child. An IEP team meeting may be conducted without a parent in attendance if the public agency is unable to convince the parents that they should attend. In Wisconsin, IEP teams make placement decisions for students with disabilities. 34 CFR §§§ 300.322(a), 300.322(d), 300.324(a)(ii), 300.501(c)(4), Wis. Stats. § 115.78 (2)(c).
The three students who are the subject of this complaint have been receiving their educational services at home in the virtual environment since November 1, 2021. These services included specially designed instruction in speech and language for all three students and specially designed instruction in reading for the older two students.
A virtual IEP team meeting was held on February 17, 2022, to review and revise all three students’ IEPs. The district indicated that there were concerns over the students continuing to make progress towards their IEP goals in the virtual environment.
The parents provided a 14-minute audio recording of the meeting. During the first 11 minutes of the meeting, the district staff members listened to the parents’ concerns. They answered questions on various topics, including homeschooling, instructional minutes, present academic levels of the students, and teacher staffing decisions. After this, the district staff attempted to discuss the students’ educational placements. Members of the IEP team stated that they believed the students would make more progress toward their IEP goals if they began receiving some instruction in person. The complainants made it very clear that they did not want the students returning to the school building for in-person instruction. The district representatives acknowledged these concerns and indicated that educational placement is an IEP team decision, and they would like to discuss a few possible options for in-person instruction. At this point, the parents ended the recording, and interviews confirm they exited the call.
After the parents left the call, the remaining IEP team members continued the meeting. They continued discussing their concerns that the students were not making sufficient progress toward their IEP goals in the virtual environment. The team considered the parents’ opinions and concerns but ultimately agreed that the placement of all three students would be changed to in-person full-time. The district provided the parents prior written notice of the revised placements and copies of the IEPs a reasonable amount of time before initiating the change of placement. Given that the parents were in attendance for part of the meeting, that the IEP team considered the concerns of the parents, and that the parents left the meeting without asking for it to be rescheduled, the district properly afforded the parents a meaningful opportunity to participate in the IEP team meeting.
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.