On September 20, 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. The issue identified is whether the district, beginning September 20, 2021, properly implemented the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability regarding the provision of social work services, specially designed transportation, and occupational therapy.
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 is 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. A school district meets its obligation to provide FAPE to each student with a disability, in part, by providing special education and related services, as documented in the student’s IEP. 34 CFR §§ 300.320-300.324; Wis. Stat. § 115.78(2). Related services refer to transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services required to assist a student with a disability to benefit from special education. The IEP team determines if a student needs transportation to benefit from special education and related services and how the transportation services should be implemented. 34 CFR § 300.107. Occupational therapy and social work services are also considered related services. 34 CFR § 300.34; Wis. Stat. § 115.76(14).
The student who is the subject of this complaint attends a high school in the district. The student has clinical diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), adjustment disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. An IEP team conducted an initial evaluation in 2013 and determined the student was eligible for special education, meeting the disability category criteria for emotional behavioral disability. In the student’s current IEP, the IEP team has identified disability-related needs in the areas of attention, behavior, self-advocacy, slow processing in reading fluency, and math calculation. The student’s class attendance has not been consistent, and the student often spends time hiding within the building.
The complainant expressed frustration regarding the district’s provision of school social work services to the student. The complainant reached out to district staff during the 2021-22 school year regarding difficulties the family has experienced, including homelessness. The student’s former case manager connected the complainant with a district social worker to help coordinate support for the family. This support was the sort of support the district provides to families of any student in the district. The support did not directly address a disability-related need of the student and was not included in the student’s IEP as a related service. There is no violation regarding this issue.
The student’s IEP includes daily specially designed transportation from the student’s home to school and back due to concerns about the student’s past aggression towards peers. At the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, the district’s coordination of the specially designed transportation was not successful, and the student did not receive the service as a result. The complainant provided the student with transportation to and from school. On September 15, 2022, the IEP team met and agreed that for the current circumstances, the complainant was in the best position to provide reliable transportation with district reimbursement. The IEP team also decided to add services for the student at an alternative program every afternoon. The district added transportation by bus to transport the student from the high school to the alternative program and back. This service was delayed after it was first discussed, and the complainant provided transportation for those weeks. The district’s default reimbursement system for students with IEPs provides funds to parents quarterly. In this situation, all parties wanted more frequent reimbursement. Setting up the alternative arrangement took more time than the default system. Since filing this complaint, the district and complainant confirmed the complainant was reimbursed for all transportation provided before the current situation was established. Moving forward, the complainant is reimbursed weekly for providing transportation. Although there were delays in providing the transportation, no student-specific correction is required because the district has reimbursed the parents for the transportation they provided during the delays.
The student’s IEP requires 45 minutes of occupational therapy per month to provide self-advocacy, self-awareness, assistive technology, and software to improve the completion of assignments. The occupational therapist (OT) indicated that the student’s attendance was sporadic for interventions and observations throughout the 2021-22 school year. The OT would look for the student and attempt to reschedule many missed sessions. The IEP team frequently met over the school year to discuss the class attendance concerns and services to assist with assignment completion, which impeded the student’s academic progress. Both parties report attendance and academic performance have improved since placement in the alternative program. The district implemented the services to the extent possible due to student absences and worked as an IEP team to address challenges with attendance. The district properly implemented occupational therapy.
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.