On October 17, 2022 (form dated October 3, 2022), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from #### (complainant) against the #### School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, beginning October 17, 2021, improperly changed the individualized education program of a student with a disability, including the educational placement, outside of an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting.
In Wisconsin, each student's IEP team determines the appropriate educational placement for the student. Wis. Stats. § 115.78 (2)(c). In determining the appropriate educational placement for a student, the IEP team must follow the least restrictive environment (LRE) requirements. The IEP team must ensure that the student is educated, to the maximum extent appropriate, with students who are not disabled. Special classes, separate schooling, or other removal from the regular education environment should only occur if education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. The district must provide prior written notice to the parent of a student with a disability whenever the district proposes to initiate or change, or refuses to initiate or change, the educational placement of the student, including a description of any options considered and rejected and the reasons those options were rejected. 34 CFR § 300.114.
A school district must ensure the parent of a student with a disability is a participant on the IEP team and must take steps to ensure one or both of the student's parents are present at each IEP team meeting or are afforded the opportunity to participate by other means. (34 CFR §§ 300.321 and 300.322; Wis. Stat. § 115.78).
On February 23, 2022, the student's IEP team met to conduct an annual review and to determine the student's continuing placement in special education. The student's parent did not attend the meeting. Documentation demonstrates the district provided the parent with several opportunities to participate in the meeting and provided a written meeting notice prior to the meeting. The IEP team reviewed the student's annual goals in the areas of writing, behavioral/situational self-awareness, and intrinsic motivational awareness and determined the student had made a "tremendous amount of progress" and their "performance exceeds the expectations of the former IEP". The revised IEP included one goal on behavioral/situational awareness and special education services in behavior, school service work, and several supplementary aids and services for behavioral support. During the meeting, the IEP team discussed continuing the student's placement in a full-time self-contained special education setting. The IEP team determined the student no longer required such a setting and determined the student would begin attending all core academic classes in the regular education setting beginning on March 2, 2022. Documentation from the district indicates that following the February 2022, IEP team meeting, the student's schedule was updated to reflect participation in two academic classes in the regular education environment. However, parent and staff interviews state the student did not consistently attend the classes and often played basketball outside, walked around the building, or in the gym during class time.
At the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, according to the student's IEP, the student should have been attending core academic classes in general education classrooms, but the student was actually receiving all academic instruction in the special education setting. Approximately two weeks after the start of the school year, the student's schedule was updated to attend two academic classes in the regular education environment, which still did not reflect the placement decision made by the student's IEP team. The student refused to attend the classes and, similarly to the 2021-22 school year, spent the majority of the class periods outside or in the gym. On September 26, 2022, the district assigned the student a new case manager. School staff reviewed the student's IEP and updated the student's schedule to be consistent with the IEP, including all of the student's classes in the regular education setting. On October 18, 2022, the IEP team met and appropriately determined the student would remain in the regular education setting and revised the IEP to include goals in the areas of reading, math, and writing and specially designed instruction in the special education setting, three times per week for 15 minutes in reading, math, and writing. The district did not properly implement the student's IEP beginning on March 2, 2022, through October 18, 2022, when it did not revise the student's schedule to implement the team's decision to change the student's placement.
Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the local educational agency (LEA) must conduct an IEP team meeting to discuss the student's supports and services currently written in the student's IEP, including attendance in regular education classes. The LEA must submit to the department a copy of the student's IEP documenting the required discussion within 10 days from the date of the student's IEP team meeting.
Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the LEA must submit a proposed corrective action plan (CAP) to ensure that IEPs are properly implemented when there is a change of placement.
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.