On April 25, 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. The issue is whether the district, during April 2023, properly implemented the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability during a school-sponsored event.
In providing or arranging for the provision of nonacademic and extracurricular activities, including meals, recess periods, and other activities, each public agency must ensure that each child with a disability participates with nondisabled children in these activities to the maximum extent appropriate given the needs of that child. Each student's IEP team must determine whether the student needs supplementary aids and services in order to participate. 34 CFR § 300.117.
The student who is the subject of this complaint has disability-related needs in the area of behavior. The IEP in effect for the student during the events leading to this complaint was revised on November 15, 2022. Under the supplementary aids and services section, the IEP team wrote, “a staff member to support [student’s name] while participating in extracurricular activities.” The amount and frequency of the service for the support were written as “when [student’s name] attends practice and games” and “when [student’s name] is participating in an extracurricular activity.” During interviews, district staff and the parent noted the language about support for the student in extracurricular activities was added as the student was hoping to play basketball, and the student would need support at games and practices. However, the IEP team did not consider or discuss whether the provision would specifically be applied during other types of extracurricular or nonacademic activities.
On April 19 and 20, 2023, the student participated in a school camping trip. The camping trip is an annual event for the entire class at the student’s grade level. Prior to the trip, the district’s director of special education and the parent spoke on the phone about expectations for the student at the camp, as the IEP had no explicit mention of field trips. The parent remembered talking about implementing some of the accommodations in the student’s IEP, including having snacks available at all times and allowing the student frequent use of the bathroom at camp.
During the evening of April 20, 2023, the student was involved in an incident in the bunkhouse, during which the student ripped a mattress in the bunkhouse and threw a boot, striking another student. The high school counselors, who were supervising the students at the time of the incident, were able to intervene and calm the student. District staff contacted the student’s parent, who took the student home.
The student’s IEP, in effect at the time of the school-sponsored camping trip, appears to indicate the student should be provided adult support during extracurricular activities. However, given the manner in which the frequency and amount of the service are described, it is unclear whether the IEP team intended for it to apply to all extracurricular activities, including field trips, as well as sports practices and games. As a result, it is impossible to determine whether the IEP was implemented because of the lack of clarity. Within 30 days of this decision, the district must reconvene the student’s IEP team to discuss whether additional supports may be needed on field trips and other such similar activities and clarify the description of those supports in the student’s IEP so it is clear during which activities the district is required to provide the support.
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 resolution options, 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.