On December 19, 2022 (form dated December 14, 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 issues identified are listed below and pertain to the period of time beginning June, 2022.
Whether the district properly responded to a request from a parent of a student with a disability to discuss extended school year services (ESY).
Each school district must ensure that extended school year services (ESY) are available as necessary to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Extended school year services must be provided if a student’s IEP team determines, on an individual basis, that the services are necessary for the provision of FAPE to the student. 34 CFR § 300.106.
If ESY services are an issue raised by a parent or another IEP team member, the IEP team must determine whether the student requires ESY services in order to receive FAPE. IEP teams should engage in a multi-factored determination of eligibility for ESY services, including “the likelihood of regression, slow recoupment, and predictive data based upon the opinion of professionals.” Todd v. Duneland Sch. Corp., 229 F.3d 899, 907 (7th Cir. 2002).
On February 21, 2022, the parent sent an email to the district’s director of pupil services (director) requesting an IEP team meeting to discuss ESY. The parents wished to discuss ESY as early as possible during the school year to be sure it was addressed well before school ended for summer. On February 22, 2022, the director sent a letter to the parents acknowledging the request to discuss ESY and indicated the discussion would be included in a future IEP team meeting to discuss results of a recently initiated reevaluation. The district was in the very early stages of conducting the reevaluation, and the IEP team meeting was not held until June 9, 2022. The IEP team considered the parent’s request for ESY and determined ESY services were not required in order to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to the student. The IEP team reviewed data addressing each of the student’s annual goals, noting that the student had made gains toward reaching the goals despite breaks during the school year. The IEP team determined, on an individual basis, that the student specific data did not indicate the student required ESY in order to receive FAPE. The district properly considered whether the student required ESY. However, while acknowledging wanting to wait until the reevaluation was completed, waiting nearly three and a half months to respond to the parent’s request for an IEP team meeting to discuss ESY services was too long of a delay. Given the unique circumstances of this situation, no corrective action is required.
Whether the district properly conducted a special education evaluation, including assessments, and properly conducted meetings of the student’s individualized education program (IEP) team, including providing parents meaningful opportunity to participate.
The purpose of a special education evaluation is to determine whether the student qualifies as a student with a disability in need of specially designed instruction and the nature and extent of the student’s educational needs. Referrals for evaluations must be in writing and include the student’s name and the reasons why the parent believes the student is a student with a disability. Upon receipt of a referral, the district must appoint an IEP team, and the IEP team must conduct a review of existing data to determine what additional data, if any, are needed to complete the evaluation. 34 CFR §§ 300.503(a)(1), 300.305(a); Wis. Stat. §§ 115.792(2), 115.782(2)(b). An IEP team meeting must be conducted to determine eligibility within 60 days after receiving parental consent for evaluation or notifying the parent that no additional assessments are needed. 34 CFR § 300.301(c); Wis. Stat. § 115.78(3)(a). School districts must take steps to ensure that the parent of a student with a disability is present at each IEP team meeting or is afforded the opportunity to participate, including notifying the parent of the meetings early enough to ensure that there will be an opportunity to attend, and scheduling the meeting at a mutually agreed time and place. Prior to an IEP team meeting, a district must provide notice to the parent of the purpose, time, and location of the IEP team meeting, including a list of who will be in attendance at the IEP team meeting. 34 CFR § 300.322.
During the spring semester of the 2021-22 school year, the district initiated a reevaluation upon the parent’s request. The district appropriately received the evaluation request, acted on it quickly, obtained appropriate consent before conducting assessments, and completed the comprehensive reevaluation in a timely manner. Scheduling IEP team meetings was complicated due to the parents’ work schedules and issues of district staff availability. Ultimately, an IEP team meeting was scheduled for June 9, 2022. On June 2, 2022, the district sent the parent a written invitation to the meeting. The June 9, 2022, meeting lasted three hours with the parents as participants. At the conclusion of the meeting, the IEP team agreed to meet again on June 15, 2022, with the understanding that only one of the student’s parents would be available. On June 13, 2022, the district sent the parents a written invitation to the upcoming IEP team meeting.
On June 15, 2022, the parent sent an email to the director indicating that due to illness, they would not be able to attend the IEP team meeting scheduled for later that morning and requested the meeting be rescheduled at a time both parents could attend together. The director immediately replied and asked if the parent could attend virtually in order to listen and participate with the IEP team members who were already at the school for the meeting. The parent did not respond. The IEP team proceeded to meet to review and revise the student’s IEP. The IEP team finished revising the IEP and the district sent a final copy of the IEP, including documentation of the reevaluation and the ESY determination, via certified mail on June 23, 2022.
District staff continued to attempt to schedule an IEP team meeting with the parents but were unable to find a time to meet during the remainder of June and July. On August 4, 2022, district staff met with the parents to discuss and review the IEP. The parents and district agreed to make some changes to the IEP without a meeting to address several concerns expressed by the parents. A revised IEP was then finalized and sent to the parents on August 16, 2022. The parent and the director met again on August 24, 2022 and agreed to review and revise the IEP without holding a meeting. The finalized IEP, including the revisions requested by the parent and agreed to by the director, was sent to the parent on August 24, 2022
While the department recognizes the complicated nature of scheduling IEP team meetings and appreciates the fact that the rest of the IEP team was ready to meet, the district should have rescheduled the June 15, 2022, meeting in order to afford the student’s parent an opportunity to participate after receiving the parent’s notification they were not able to attend the meeting and requesting to reschedule. Given the unique circumstances of this situation, no corrective action is required.
Whether the district properly developed the student’s IEP regarding accommodations for grading and modifications for tests, quizzes, and schoolwork.
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 are 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. For most students, the IEP must be designed to allow the student to progress from grade to grade, but if that is not possible, the IEP should be appropriately ambitious in light of the child’s circumstances. Special education and related services be provided to the student in accordance with the student’s IEP. (34 CFR §§ 300.320-300.324; Wis. Stat. § 115.78; Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, 137 S.Ct. 988). The IEP must include a statement of the special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the student, including the projected date for the beginning of the services and the anticipated duration of the services. All services must be clearly stated in the IEP in a manner that can be understood by all involved in the development and implementation of the IEP. 34 CFR §§ 300.320(a)(4) and (a)(7).
At the June 15, 2022, IEP team meeting that the parent did not attend, the IEP team members discussed and determined that the student should take a class only for a participation grade rather than receiving a regular grade due to the student’s difficulties with decoding and writing. This decision was included in the student’s IEP. On August 4, 2022, the director met with the parents who requested that the student receive a grade for the class. The director agreed to the change, and following required procedures, removed that provision from the student’s IEP.
On August 23, 2022, district staff responsible for implementing the student’s IEP met to review the student’s “IEP at a Glance” document including supplementary aids and services. Interviews with district staff conducted by the department’s investigator confirmed all of the student’s teachers were aware of and provided all of the accommodations required by the IEP. The district properly developed the student’s IEP regarding accommodations for grading and modifications for tests, quizzes, and schoolwork.
Whether the district properly implemented the student’s IEP regarding specially designed instruction for writing and behavior.
Special education and related services must be provided to the student in accordance with the student’s IEP. 34 CFR §§ 300.323(c)(2) & 300.324; Wis. Stat. § 115.787.
The student’s IEP includes specially designed instruction in writing and executive functioning. During the student’s weekly writing instruction, the student's special education teacher worked one on one with the student and student utilized various tools such as graphic organizers, and sentence starters, as well as computerized tools including text to speech. The student was given flexible seating, a quiet environment, rewards, positive reinforcement, extended time, and adult prompting to engage in the tasks the student needed to complete.
The student's special education teacher and the regular classroom teacher met weekly to discuss upcoming assignments including writing to determine which modifications or accommodations staff would make to ensure the student could be successful in accordance with the IEP. The special education teacher also worked directly with the student on executive functioning skills. The teacher provided and instructed the student in using tools such as visuals, task lists, and colored sticky notes to assist with organization and work completion. The occupational therapist (OT) also worked directly with the student to support writing and executive functioning using a variety of tools such as task lists and, visual organizers. The OT also met with the special education teacher regularly as required by the IEP to collaborate on how to best support the student at school.
Staff tracked their provision of services to the student in a Google document, which was aligned with staff schedules. When staff were absent, a licensed substitute teacher provided the student’s specially designed instruction. Staff provided parents a schedule outlining the student's daily activity indicating when the student would receive specialized instruction from the teacher and the related service of OT from the therapist. Staff informed parents that the schedule was occasionally subject to change for all students due to scheduled events such as standardized testing and class field trips, etc. These occasional interruptions do not occur frequently enough to impact the student’s progress toward achieving IEP goals. The district properly implemented the student’s IEP regarding specially designed instruction for writing and behavior.
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.