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IDEA Complaint Decision 24-026

On March 6, 2024, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from #### (parent) against the #### (district). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue identified is whether the district, since March 6, 2023, properly fulfilled its obligation to identify, locate, and evaluate a student with a disability, including properly responding to a parent’s request for a special education evaluation.
School districts must ensure that all children with disabilities residing in the district who need special education and related services are identified, located, and evaluated. 34 CFR § 300.111(a). Any person who believes a student is a student with a disability may refer the student to the district for a special education evaluation. If a parent reasonably believes their child is a student with a disability, they may make a referral to the school district. Wis. Stat. § 115.777(1)(c). All referrals must be in writing and include the name of the student and the reasons why the person believes that the child is a student with a disability. Wis. Stat. § 115.777(2)(a). The district must accept and process all referrals that are submitted. Wis. Stat. § 115.777(3). Within 15 business days of receiving a request for a referral, the district must work with the individualized education program (IEP) team members, including the student’s parent, to determine if additional assessments are necessary and send the parents a request to evaluate the student. Wis. Stat. § 115.777(3)(e).
If a parent’s request is ambiguous, districts must clarify with the parent whether the parent in fact wants a special education evaluation. The IEP team must determine if the child is a student with a disability within 60 calendar days after receiving parental consent for evaluation. Wis. Stat. § 115.78(3)(a). If the child is a student with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the district must hold an IEP team meeting to develop the IEP and determine placement within 30 calendar days of eligibility. Wis. Stat. § 115.78(3)(c).
The student who is the subject of this complaint is in sixth grade and is a resident of the school district. During the 2022-23 school year, the student’s parent requested an evaluation and the district conducted one. The student’s parent shared the student’s medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and their concerns about the student’s behavior with the district. The student’s IEP team convened and determined that the student met disability category criteria for other health impairment, but that the student did not require specially designed instruction. Therefore, the team did not find the student eligible for special education services but created an accommodation plan under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) for the student.
As the 2023-24 school year began, the student avoided homework. This led to low first term grades. On December 14, 2023, the parent emailed the district’ special education director asking for extra academic help, including the statement “…or I could request a new eval for an IEP.” On December 18, 2023, the parent emailed the district’s special education director again, “I had emailed you last week but didn’t hear back. Is there any way to get [the student] a little extra support during the day with [the student’s] schoolwork, or do I need to request another IEP eval be done.” The director responded, “Let me do some checking with [the student’s] teachers to find out what they are seeing as well. We would need to initiate another evaluation.”
On January 11, 2024, the parent emailed the school psychologist stating that they felt their child may need an IEP, so they have access to more help. On January 26, 2004, the parent sent another email concerned that their child was failing math, stating that their child needed to be re-evaluated for an IEP. On January 30, 2024, the parent emailed the director requesting a meeting to discuss the student. The parent reported that their child was “struggling academically and constantly being scolded for bad behavior,” adding “I think we need to look at an IEP again evaluation as I really think [the student] needs this, and in the meantime, we need a behavior intervention plan and much more added to [the student’s] 504 plan.” The director responded, proposing a Section 504 team meeting on February 5, 2024, which the parent confirmed. The director replied regarding meeting participants and indicated that the school psychologist would start the special education evaluation paperwork the next day, January 31, 2024.
On February 5, 2024, the 504-team met as planned, discussed 504 plan adjustments, and agreed that a special education evaluation was appropriate. At 6:00 p.m. that day, the parent sent the director an email entitled “Formal eval request.” The email indicated the parent was not sure if the director needed a request in writing to initiate the IEP evaluation. The district filled out a referral form that indicated a parent referral on February 5, 2024. The district provided the parent with notice of additional assessments for the parent’s consent on February 16, 2024. On February 20, 2024, the parent informed the director that they would not provide consent for the additional assessments. The parent promptly disenrolled the student from the district and open-enrolled the student in a neighboring district.
Given the parent’s communication that began on December 18, 2023, there was too long of a delay in initiating a special evaluation. Even though there was some ambiguity regarding the December communication, district staff did not follow up to clarify the parent’s intent, provide information on how to initiate a referral, and did not interpret the parent’s increasingly direct written communications in January as a referral. The district did not properly fulfill its obligation to identify, locate, and evaluate a student with a disability and did not properly respond to the parent’s request for a special education evaluation.
Within 30 days of this complaint decision, the district must develop and submit a corrective action plan to the department for approval. The plan must identify steps the district will take to ensure all staff who may receive requests for evaluations of their responsibilities to respond to parent requests in a timely manner, and to ensure the district has procedures and practices in place to ensure proper identification, location, and evaluation of students with disabilities who are in need of special education and related services.
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 or contact the special education team at (608) 266-1781.
For questions about this information, contact (608) 266-1781