On March 28, 2017, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the XXXXX School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2016-17 school year, properly fulfilled its responsibility to identify, locate, and evaluate a student with a disability.
During the 2015-16 school year, the student increasingly experienced behavioral and mental health concerns. School staff brought their concerns to the school intervention team and the student received supports. When the 2016-17 school year began, the student struggled to transition back into a school schedule. On September 28, 2016, the student was hospitalized for inpatient treatment. Upon discharge, the school was notified of the discharge instructions, and the school attempted to accommodate the student on an informal basis. According to the attendance records, the student has missed a significant amount of school since October 3, 2016. In late October, district staff and the parents discussed the possibility of a special education evaluation, but an evaluation was not initiated.
On January 6, 2017, the parent met with district staff and information about the special education referral process was discussed but a referral was not made. On February 3, the student was hospitalized a second time for inpatient treatment. On February 9, district staff referred the student for a special education evaluation and the parents were notified of the referral. The notice of receipt of referral was sent to the parents on February 10. Individualized education program (IEP) team members, including one of the parents, participated in the review of existing evaluation data, and the consent for additional assessments was sent to the parents on February 17. One parent consented for the evaluation and it was received electronically on February 17. On March 20, the other parent e-mailed the district stating that they did not consent to the special education evaluation or additional testing. The district stopped the special education evaluation process because it believed it needed consent from both parents to proceed with a special education evaluation.
A school district must identify, locate, and evaluate all resident students with disabilities who are in need of special education and related services. Any person, including a parent, may make a special education referral, and a district must accept and process all the referrals that it receives. When a parent makes a request for a special education evaluation, the district must inform the parent of their right to make a referral and how to make a referral. Licensed staff members employed by the district who reasonably believe a child has a disability must refer the child after notifying the parent of the intent to refer. Districts may use building consultation teams and regular education interventions prior to referrals. However, pre-referral activities may not delay or disrupt the district’s initiation, accepting, or processing of referrals. District procedures cannot require a referring person to obtain the permission, approval, or agreement of others before the district accepts a referral.>
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 assessments, if any, are needed to complete the evaluation. If the IEP team determines additional assessments are required, the district must send the child’s parents a request for consent to administer the assessments within 15 days of receiving the referral. As long as the parent has the legal authority to make educational decisions for the child, the LEA must accept either parent’s consent and proceed with an evaluation of a child with a suspected disability when consent from one parent is received.
In this case, the district did not properly identify, locate, and evaluate a student with a suspected disability. As of November 1, 2016, the student was struggling with functional skills, had missed a significant number of school days, had been hospitalized on an inpatient unit related to mental health needs, and the parent had requested assistance. Under the circumstances presented in this complaint the district was obligated to initiate a special education evaluation. Further, once consent was received from one parent, the district was required to complete the evaluation and determine eligibility.
Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district must develop a corrective action plan to ensure that staff are trained on state and federal law requirements regarding identifying, locating and evaluating a child with a disability. The district must also complete the special education evaluation for the student and provide the evaluation report to the department within 60 days. If the student is eligible for special education, the IEP team must determine the amount of compensatory services for the delay in evaluation and provide that documentation to the department.
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.
// Signed CST 5/25/17
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support