On May 5, 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 this complaint. The issue identified is whether the district, beginning the 2022-23 school year, properly implemented the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability regarding the student’s health needs.
School districts must provide each student with a disability with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment. School districts meet their obligation to provide FAPE to each student with a disability, in part, by developing an IEP based on the student’s unique, disability-related needs that is 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 student’s circumstances. 34 CFR §§ 300.320-300.324; Wis. Stat. § 115.78; Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, 137 S.Ct. 988. Each student's 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).
The student who is the subject of this complaint has complicated health conditions that can cause the student’s status to decline rapidly, causing the need for urgent interventions. The student attends school for three hours per day due to fatigue associated with the health conditions. The student requires close, continuous blood sugar monitoring. Due to the nature of the student’s disability, the student is not able to self-monitor and cannot communicate with others about their needs related to health care. The student’s family acquired equipment that continuously monitors the student’s blood sugar. The student wears a device on their body that sends information wirelessly to equipment similar to a mobile phone. The equipment alerts caregivers immediately when the student requires assistance. A separate piece of equipment similar to a mobile phone allows the student’s parent to monitor the student’s status remotely. In order for the equipment to function properly, it must remain within close proximity to the student, no more than 20 feet. If the monitoring devices are outside of the 20-foot range, they issue loud audible tones every five minutes to alert the caregiver that the equipment is out of the student’s range.
The student’s IEP in effect during the events giving rise to this complaint indicates that the student needs “adult assistance/proximity in all special and regular education environments for safety, transitions, outside/playground, in special and regular education classrooms to compete academic and social tasks, bathroom/hygiene/dressing skills, when eating (breakfast, lunch, snacks), specials like PE, music and art to monitor blood sugar and other health conditions” as a supplementary aid/service. The IEP also indicates the student will receive school health services through an individual health plan, for daily monitoring, 10 minutes per day. School staff indicated that an adult is always in close proximity to the student. At times, the staff person may be assisting an additional student or two.
Staff were aware of the student’s medical needs and, in the first part of the 2022-23 school year, had made arrangements to ensure the student’s medical devices remained in range of the student. However, after the student’s special education teacher went on extended medical leave in February 2023, the parent began to notice that the student’s devices were occasionally out of range of the student. On one occasion, the devices were out of range for about 20 minutes. The student’s parent contacted the school nurse, who found that staff supporting the student had unintentionally taken the devices with them after they worked with the student and transitioned to working with another student outside of the student’s classroom. The next week, the devices were out of range for 20 minutes. After that incident, the principal developed a plan for the school nurse or their staff to check on the student hourly while at school to ensure the equipment remained within the range of the student and working properly. Despite this plan, there was at least one more occasion where the student’s equipment was out of range for approximately 20 minutes.
On April 11, 2023, the student arrived home from school without the devices. The student’s parent immediately contacted the school, and staff found that the devices had inadvertently not been sent home with the student. A staff member drove to the student’s home and returned the devices. The parent was quite upset about the incident, as during the time the student was without the devices, nobody would have been able to tell if there had been a drastic change in the student’s blood sugar when timely intervention would have been crucial for the student’s safety. The parent chose not to send the student back to the elementary school. The student is currently not enrolled in the district.
The IEP indicates the student will be provided “adult assistance/proximity in all special and regular education environments for safety… to monitor blood sugar and other health conditions.” The IEP requires that adult assistance be provided to monitor blood sugar, which in this case, requires the devices to be in proximity of the student, which did not occur on different occasions throughout the school year. The district did not consistently implement the student’s IEP regarding the student’s health needs. Because the student is no longer enrolled in the district, no student corrective action is required.
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.