On April 3, 2017, the department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the XXXXX School District (district). This is the department’s decision regarding the complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2016-17 school year:
- Properly followed special education disciplinary procedures;
- Properly developed the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability to address needs related to social skills and self-advocacy;
- Properly responded to a parent’s request for an evaluation in speech and language for a student with a disability; and
- Properly responded to allegations of bullying of a student with a disability.
Within 10 school days of any decision to change the placement of a student with a disability because of a violation of a code of student conduct, the student’s IEP team must determine if the conduct in question was a manifestation of the student’s disability. If the conduct is determined to be a manifestation of the student’s disability, the student must be returned to the placement from which the student was removed, unless the parent and the district agree to change the placement.
On January 4, 2017, the student engaged in behavior while off campus that was of concern to district staff. District staff conducted an investigation and, as a result, suspended the student beginning on January 11. As the student was facing potential expulsion, the student’s IEP team met on January 18 to conduct a manifestation determination. The team concluded that the behavior that gave rise to the disciplinary action was a manifestation of the student’s disability. The parent and the district agreed that the student’s placement would be changed notwithstanding the results of the manifestation determination. On January 31, the IEP team reconvened and determined the student’s placement would be at a charter school located outside the district. The student did not receive educational services between January 18 and
January 31. In conducting the manifestation determination within 10 days of the student’s initial suspension and changing the student’s placement with the parent’s agreement, the district properly followed special education disciplinary procedures. The district did not properly follow special education disciplinary procedures in failing to provide educational services to the student immediately following the completion of the manifestation determination. As corrective action, the district shall convene the student’s IEP team to determine whether compensatory services are required for the delay in resuming the student’s educational services, and provide documentation to the department.
In developing a student’s IEP, a student’s IEP team must consider the student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance and identify the student’s disability-related needs affecting the student’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum. The IEP team must develop annual goals for the student designed to address the student’s identified needs. A student’s IEP must include a statement of special education and related services that will be provided to enable the student to advance appropriately towards attaining the annual goals, and to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum and to participate in extracurricular and other non-academic activities.
The student’s IEP in effect at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year was developed on April 5, 2016. The IEP noted that the student had not needed specified positive behavioral supports and interventions within the past 18 months that his social skills had improved, that he got along well with his classmates and instructors, and that his functional performance was age and grade appropriate. The IEP team identified two annual goals for the student related to academic achievement and self-advocacy. The IEP specified one class period per day of special education and several modifications for class assignment and assessment expectations. The IEP team considered the parent’s request for additional instruction in the area of social skills and self-advocacy, but determined such instruction was not necessary given the student’s current academic and functional performance. The student’s IEP progress report of November 8, 2016, indicated the student was making progress towards both his goals. The IEP developed subsequent to the manifestation determination on January 31, 2017, identified four annual goals for the student in the areas of self-advocacy, social skills, and self-regulation. The IEP included additional specialized instruction related to the student’s goals, and autism in-service training for district and charter school staff. The student’s IEP team met again on March 31 to review the student’s IEP and placement at the charter school. The team determined the student’s IEP and placement would continue unchanged but that the team would reconvene before the end of the school year to reconsider placement options. The district properly developed the student’s IEPs in effect during the 2016-2017 school year.
The parent requested evaluation of the student by a speech therapist on October 14, 2016. No evaluation was conducted. The district concedes it did not properly respond to the parent’s request for an evaluation in speech and language for the student. The district is currently in the process of evaluating the student. If the evaluation results in eligibility for speech and language services, the district shall convene the student’s IEP team to consider whether compensatory services are required for the delay in processing the parent’s evaluation request, and provide documentation to the department. As further corrective action, the district shall, within 30 days, submit to the department a plan for providing professional development to all district staff to familiarize them with the proper procedures for responding to parental requests for special education evaluations.
Each school board must adopt a policy prohibiting bullying by students. School districts have an obligation to ensure that a student with a disability who is the target of bullying behavior continues to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in accordance with his or her IEP. The school should, as part of its appropriate response to the bullying, convene the IEP team to determine whether, as a result of the effects of the bullying, the student’s needs have changed such that the IEP is no longer designed to provide meaningful educational benefit.
On February 7, 2017, the parent sent an email to district administrators alleging multiple incidents of bullying directed towards the student since the beginning of the school year. The high school principal investigated the alleged incidents, but was unable to substantiate their occurrence due to the lack of specificity of the allegations and the passage of time. Following the parent’s complaint, district administrators conducted a review of the district’s bullying policy and the district’s bullying prevention programs. Because no bullying or harassment was identified by the district, the IEP team was not reconvened to address the effects of the alleged bullying. The district properly addressed incidents of alleged bullying involving the student.
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 by CST 6/2/17
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support