On October 18, 2022 (form dated October 13, 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 this complaint. The issue identified is whether the district properly allowed the student's parents a meaningful opportunity to participate in a meeting of the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability during the fall semester of the 2022-23 school year.
Under federal and state special education law, 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, including notifying the parent of the meeting early enough to ensure they have an opportunity to attend and scheduling the meeting at a mutually agreed on time and place. 34 CFR § 300.322. Districts may offer the parent alternative means of participation, including telephone or virtual meetings. 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). While the IEP team (which includes the student’s parents) must work toward reaching a consensus, including the team’s meaningful consideration of parents’ requests related to IEP development and placement decisions, the district is ultimately responsible for ensuring the student receives a FAPE. Wis. Stat. § 115.79; 34 CFR § 300.116.
On June 3, 2022, the department directed the district to convene the student’s IEP team to address several items related to noncompliance identified in a special education complaint. The district and the student’s parents held multiple IEP team meetings and addressed many of the required items. On September 19, 2022, the department sent the district and the parents an update and directed the district to convene the student’s IEP team before October 5, 2022, to address outstanding items, including determining the student’s educational placement.
The parties agreed to schedule an IEP team meeting for September 27, 2022, at 10:30 a.m. The arrangements for the meeting included district staff scheduling a location off of district property where the student’s parents could attend the meeting virtually at this site. The district arranged the location, including securing a room the district had previously used for the student’s IEP team meeting and making sure the proper technology was in place to allow the parents to join the meeting virtually at this site. The district sent the parents reminders about the meeting on September 2, 12, and 13, 2022, and the parents, through their advocate, confirmed the September 27, 2022, date. The district also sent the student’s parents a written invitation to the meeting via certified mail with a signature of receipt on September 20, 2022, followed by another email reminder on September 21, 2022.
On the morning of the meeting, district staff sent all the invited participants a link to the virtual meeting via email. The district did not believe the student’s parents had joined the meeting. District staff indicated that someone attempted to join the virtual meeting but that the person was not identified, and the person did not turn on their microphone or camera despite multiple requests that they do so. Given the meeting’s confidential nature, district staff decided they could not admit the person into the meeting without ascertaining their identity. District staff emailed the parents at 11:04 a.m. to find out if the parents were attempting to join the meeting but did not receive a response. IEP team participants who were in attendance determined the student’s placement at a district school that is not the student’s home school but is the school closest to the student’s home that provided services required by the student. The student’s placement in effect prior to this meeting was homebound instruction, but the student’s parents did not allow access to the home. At previous meetings, the IEP team considered and rejected several options for the student’s placement, including the district’s home school, an applied behavioral analysis clinical site, and a different school district. District staff ended the meeting at 11:12 a.m.
The student’s parents indicated that when they arrived at the prearranged location, they were unsure of the specific room and did not find the required technology. They attempted to join the meeting through other means but were not successful. The parents contacted the district by telephone and were informed that the meeting was over.
While it is unfortunate the parents were not able to connect with the meeting, the department cannot conclude the district did not meet its obligation to provide the parent opportunity to participate. The district provided the parents with ample notice of the meeting, including sending a written invitation via certified mail. Given the circumstances, including the department’s directive to the district, it was not unreasonable for the district to proceed with determining the student’s placement without the parents. In the time since September 27, 2022, the district has arranged additional opportunities for the parents to provide and receive information regarding the student, including an IEP team meeting on October 17, 2022, which the student’s parents attended. The district also arranged an additional IEP team meeting in November 2022 but canceled it when the student’s parents did not attend. The district properly allowed the student's parents a meaningful opportunity to participate in the IEP team meeting on September 27, 2022.
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.