On March 9, 2023 (form dated March 6, 2023), 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. beginning the 2022-23 school year, provided special education services utilizing properly licensed staff, and properly allowed the parents of a student with a disability meaningful opportunity to participate in a meeting of the student’s individualized education program (IEP) team.
Each school board must ensure every teacher, aide, or other professional staff holds a valid certificate, license, or permit issued by the department for the position for which the individual is employed. Special education services must be provided by properly licensed special education teachers. 34 CFR § 300.156; Wis. Stats § 118.19; Wis. Admin. Code § PI 34.
In early March, 2023, the complainant, who is the grandparent and guardian of the student who is subject to this complaint, contacted district staff in writing to express concern that there was no properly licensed special education teacher present in the student’s classroom. District staff acknowledge they have many vacancies for special education teachers within the district, and that they are aware of the vacancies at the student’s school. District staff explained all the student’s special education services were being provided by paraprofessionals whose work was not regularly overseen by one of the schools licensed special education teachers. The role of a special education paraprofessional is to work under the direct supervision of a licensed teacher in a district or school whose responsibilities include, but are not limited to, supporting the lesson plan of the licensed teacher, providing technical assistance to the teacher, helping with classroom control or management, and other duties as assigned. A special education paraprofessional cannot be assigned teacher duties. DPI Special Education Information Update Bulletin 10.05. The district explained that once a special education teacher is hired to fill the vacancy at the student’s school, the district will schedule IEP team meetings for each impacted student to determine whether compensatory services are needed as a result of the extended vacancy. The district did not provide special education services utilizing properly licensed staff.
As a result of this noncompliance, the district is directed to submit a corrective action plan to the department outlining steps it is taking to fill vacant special education teacher positions at the student’s school. Within 30 days of filling the special education teacher vacancy positions, the district is directed to convene IEP team meetings for all students who are impacted by the special education teacher vacancies and determine whether compensatory services are required. The district will submit to the department a summary of all students and the determinations reached by each IEP team.
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. When confronted with the situation of complying with one procedural requirement of the IDEA or another, the LEA must make a reasonable determination of which course of action promotes the purposes of the IDEA and is least likely to result in the denial of a FAPE. Ensuring parents have the opportunity to meaningfully participate in all IEP team decisions is of primary importance. Doug C. v. Hawaii Dept. of Educ., 720 F.3d 1038, 1046 (9th Cir. 2013).
In their written communication to the district, the complainant also informed district staff that on March 2, 2023 while the complainant was at the school, a staff member approached the complainant to verbally invite them to attend an IEP team meeting for the student to be held the next day. The complainant declined the invitation as they needed more time to prepare for the meeting. Later that day, another district staff person contacted the complainant requesting a date for the meeting to be held by March 7, 2023 to meet the annual meeting deadline. The complainant again declined to meet, and the district staff person told the complainant the meeting would be held whether or not they could attend.
District staff acknowledge that the IEP team meeting was not originally scheduled in a manner that properly afforded the complainant meaningful opportunity to participate and did not properly provide the parent sufficient notice of the meeting. While the complainant attended the March 7, 2023 IEP team meeting, District staff worked with the complainant to schedule an additional IEP team meeting to allow the complainant meaningful opportunity to participate in the meeting, including securing an interpreter for the meeting. The IEP team meeting was held on March 15, 2023. The team discussed and determined no compensatory services were required as a result of the late annual IEP team meeting. No additional student specific corrective action is required.
Within 30 days of this decision, the district is directed to develop and submit to the department a corrective action plan to ensure all staff understand requirements related to scheduling IEP team meetings in a manner that allows meaningful opportunity for parent participation.
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.