On April 18, 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 issues identified are whether the district, during the 2021-22 school year, properly documented decisions made by the student's individualized education program (IEP) team and properly revised the student's IEP to address any lack of expected progress.
In developing the IEP, the IEP team must consider the concerns of the parent in enhancing the education of their student and revise the IEP, as appropriate, to address information provided by the parent. 34 CFR §300.324 (a)(ii) and (b)(ii)(C). On September 13, 2021, the IEP team met, and the parent shared that the student had a medical diagnosis, and the condition impacted the student's behavior. The parent requested that the medical diagnosis be mentioned in the student's IEP. District staff asked questions about the diagnosis and the condition's impacts on the student. District staff informed the parent that they would add the diagnosis if they received documentation about it from a medical provider. District staff indicated the student was not demonstrating the type of behaviors at school typically associated with the student's reported medical condition. The IEP team reviewed the current supports the student received through the school's multi-level system of support and the positive behavioral supports and strategies in the student's IEP and determined those supports were sufficient to address the student's school behaviors. IEP teams must consider, discuss and address parents' concerns throughout the development of a student's IEP, and should consider utilizing the section of the IEP dedicated to parent concerns to document information parents share that is not included elsewhere. In general, school staff cannot require parents to share medical documentation before an IEP team considers how a reported medical condition impacts a student's educational functioning and disability-related needs. In this circumstance, although the IEP team did not include the medical diagnosis in the student's IEP, by discussing the student's school behavior and determining the supports and services in place were sufficient to address the student's needs, the IEP team properly considered the information shared by the parent regarding the student's medical condition. The district did not fail to document any decisions made by the student's IEP team.
Before developing annual goals, the IEP team must review the student's IEP to determine whether the goals for the student are being achieved and revise the IEP, as appropriate, to address any lack of expected progress toward the goals and in the general education curriculum. 34 CFR §300.324 (b)(1)(i) and (b)(1)(ii)(A). Each goal must contain a baseline, a level of attainment, and a statement of how the student's progress will be measured that are in alignment and make sense based on the goal. 34 CFR §300.320 (a)(2) and (a)(3)(i). At the September 13, 2021, meeting, the IEP team reviewed the previous year's annual goals. The team determined the student did not meet their goals in math and reading because of the student's inability to focus during an assessment, which was the sole measure of meeting the previous year's goals. IEP teams should exercise caution in utilizing a single benchmark score as a level of attainment for a goal, as a point-in-time assessment may not accurately reflect a student's overall ability. On December 17, 2021, the IEP team revised the student's reading goal to include more detail and a measurable baseline and level of attainment. However, the team did not revise the method to measure progress toward meeting the reading goal and continued to list the assessment. Scores obtained through this assessment do not accurately determine progress toward meeting the specific reading skills addressed by the goal. The student's IEP also includes an annual math goal with a baseline of the student's grade-level equivalency that does not align with the level of attainment, a percentage that appears to be related to the overall math goal.
When a student is repeatedly absent from school, districts must consider the impact of the absences on the student's progress and performance and determine how to ensure the continued provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in order for the student to continue to progress and meet the annual goals in their IEP. Whether an interruption in special education services constitutes a denial of FAPE is an individual determination that must be made on a case-by-case basis. Letter to Clarke, 107 LRP 13115 (OSEP 2007). If the student is absent from school for a prolonged period, it is appropriate for the local educational agency to reconvene the IEP team to determine if it is necessary to revise the student's IEP or placement to address the reasons for the student's absences. Letter to Balkman, 23 LRP 3417 (OSEP 1995). In interviews, district staff expressed concern that the student appeared withdrawn, dysregulated, and was caught breaking school rules during the fall months of 2021. They believe the student's academic progress was sufficient but impaired by attendance issues and lack of motivation. The student stopped attending the school on November 18, 2021. For several months, district staff attempted to connect with the family and held two informal, non-IEP team meetings with the parent. The district was simultaneously pursuing truancy proceedings. Meanwhile, the parent investigated school options for the student, including virtual attendance and open enrollment but was ultimately unsuccessful. On March 25, 2022, the parent enrolled the student in home-based private education. The district did not attempt to convene the student's IEP team to address the student's nonattendance and behavioral changes after the September 13, 2021, annual IEP meeting. The district failed to properly revise the student's IEP to address any lack of expected progress and address the lack of attendance.
Because the student is no longer enrolled in the school district, no student-level correction is required at this time. Should the student re-enroll in the district, the student's IEP team must reconvene to ensure the annual goals are properly developed, address the impact of the student's excessive absences, and determine compensatory services. Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must develop and submit to the department for approval a corrective action plan (CAP) for approval to ensure that IEP teams properly develop annual goals, including identifying appropriate methods of determining progress, and properly reviewing and revise IEPs to address nonattendance of students with disabilities and any other lack of expected progress.
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, and 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.