IDEA Complaint Decision 00-001

On January 10, 2000 (letter dated January 2, 2000), a complaint was filed with the Department of Public Instruction by XXXXX against the Appleton Area School District. This complaint alleges a violation of special education law regarding the implementation of programs for children with disabilities.

Pursuant to 34 CFR 300.660-662 of the regulations implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and 115.762(3)(g) and 115.90(1), Wis. Stats., the Department of Public Instruction investigated this complaint. In investigating a complaint, the department reviews a district's compliance with state and federal requirements. As part of this investigation, department staff reviewed relevant education records of the child, materials submitted by the complainant, and documents submitted by the district in response to the complaint. Department staff spoke with the complainant, a special education teacher and the assistant superintendent of student services.

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ISSUE #1:

Did the district fail to implement provisions of the child's current individualized education program (IEP) related to: the amount and frequency of special education, providing classroom notes to the child, providing sentence starters to the child for written assignments, and providing written progress reports to the child's parent?

ISSUE #2:

Did the district fail to include a proper statement of transition service needs in the child's current IEP?

APPLICABLE STATUTES AND RULES:

Section 115.76, Wisconsin Statutes
Definitions.

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(7) "Free appropriate public education" means special education and related services that are provided at public expense and under public supervision and direction, meet the standards of the department, include an appropriate preschool, elementary or secondary school education and are provided in conformity with an individualized education program.

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Section 115.77, Wisconsin Statutes
Local educational agency duties.

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(1m) A local educational agency shall demonstrate to the satisfaction of the division that it does all of the following:

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(b) Makes available a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities as required by this subchapter and applicable state and federal law.

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Section 115.78, Wisconsin Statutes
Individualized education program team; timeline.

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(2) DUTIES OF TEAM. The individualized education program team shall do all of the following:

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(b) Develop an individualized education program for the child under 115.787.

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Section 115.787, Wisconsin Statutes
Individualized education programs.

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(2) REQUIRED COMPONENTS. An individualized education program shall include all of the following:

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(g) 1. Beginning when the child attains the age of 14, and annually thereafter until the child is no longer eligible for special education and related services, a statement identifying the courses of study needed to prepare the child for a successful transition to his or her goals for life after secondary school, such as participation in advanced placement courses or a vocational education program.

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ADMINISTRATIVE AND JUDICIAL INTERPRETATIONS:

34 CFR Part 300, Appendix A, Questions 31 and 35 (formerly Appendix C, Questions 45 and 51)

31. Must the public agency ensure that all services specified in a child's IEP are provided?

Yes. The public agency must ensure that all services set forth in the child's IEP are provided, consistent with the child's needs as identified in the IEP.

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35. Must the IEP specify the amount of services or may it simply list the services to be provided?

The amount of services to be provided must be stated in the IEP, so that the level of the agency's commitment of resources will be clear to parents and other IEP team members ( 300.347(a)(6)). The amount of time to be committed to each of the various services to be provided must be (1) appropriate to the specific service, and (2) stated in the IEP in a manner that is clear to all who are involved in both the development and implementation of the IEP.

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Department of Public Instruction, Learning Support/Equity and Advocacy, Information Update Bulletin 98.10, September 1998, Question 21

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21. Must all 14-year-old students with disabilities have transition statements included in their IEPs?

Yes. IDEA Amendments of 1997 and state law require that the IEP for each child with a disability must include beginning at age 14 and updated annually, a statement of the transition service needs of the child under the applicable components of the child's IEP that focuses on the child's courses of study (such as participation in advanced-placement courses or a vocational program). * * * According to the Senate Report that explains the intent of the law, "[t]he purpose of this requirement is to focus attention on how the child's educational program can be planned to help the child make a successful transition to his or her goals for life after secondary school" * * *.

FINDINGS OF FACT:

This complaint concerns the education of a 15-year-old child with a learning disability who attends high school in the Appleton Area School District. The youth's IEP relevant to this complaint was developed at an IEP team meeting on February 24, 1999. The youth and his mother attended and participated in the meeting.

The youth's IEP states that he will receive the following special education for the 1999-2000 school year:

Resource1 period/dayResource room
Math1 period/dayRegular ed. room
English1 period/dayRegular ed. room
Government1 period/dayRegular ed. room
Science1 period/dayRegular ed. room

The complainant informed the department that she understood the IEP to require that those five classes would be team-taught by a special education and a regular education teacher. In the complaint, she alleged that her son's English and government classes were not team-taught and that special education in the resource room was not made available to her son.

District staff who were participants on the youth's IEP team stated that they understood the above-mentioned provisions of the IEP to mean that the youth would receive special education support services in those classes. They stated that this support could be provided in one of three ways: team-teaching by special and regular education teachers; access to resource assistance; and teacher-to-teacher consultation. The youth's math and science classes were team-taught by special and regular education teachers. The district stated that the youth's English and government classes were not team-taught, but that the other types of support were provided. The district acknowledged that the IEP did not clearly reflect the intention of the IEP team in that it indicates that the child will receive special education instructional services for five class periods per day. The district stated that, instead, the IEP should have indicated that the youth would receive special education supplementary aids and services and modifications in some regular education classes.

With regard to special education services in the resource room, the youth's class schedule at the beginning of the school year did not include a period in the resource room. On September 7, 1999, the youth's schedule was changed to include a study hall period. District staff explained to the youth that he could request a pass to go from the study hall room to the resource room where a special education teacher was present. On September 8, 1999, the complainant requested that the youth be assigned to the resource room for his study hall period. The district informed her that students are not assigned to the resource room for study hall periods but may access the resource room during study hall. The complainant then requested that the youth's schedule be changed to replace the study hall period with a marketing class. The district acknowledged that it should have reconvened the IEP team when the youth's schedule was changed to include marketing, a regular education class, rather than special education services in the resource room for one period per day.

The complainant also alleged that her son did not receive class notes in government class and did not receive sentence starters for written assignments in his classes. The youth's IEP states that he will "utilize sentence starters given by the teacher on all written essays, reports, and research assignments" and "utilize classroom notes as study aids provided by the regular education teacher or the special education teacher." The regular education teacher for government class provided the youth with outlines of all the classroom lectures. The district provided materials indicating that the youth received a sentence starter for the essay portion of an exam in government class that was provided to all regular education students. The district also provided materials detailing the extensive instructions and support, including sentence starters, provided to all students in the youth's English class for a research paper project. The youth's English teacher also spent time in class covering sentence starters with students. The department did not receive evidence that the youth received sentence starters for all written essays, reports, and research assignments.

The youth's IEP requires that the district notify the youth's parents of his progress toward the annual goals through written progress reports. The district provided the complainant with the youth's quarterly report cards, as well as mid-quarter reports during the first and second quarters. The complainant also received electronic mail messages from district staff. The district acknowledged that these reports did not address the youth's progress toward the three annual goals in his IEP.

Finally, the complainant alleged that the transition statement in her son's IEP was based solely on information she provided and that the IEP team did not "assess [the student's] interests, preferences and future goals" related to transition. The IEP includes one page of information written by the complainant entitled "Transition Concerns" that relates to the youth's social skills, decision-making, and self-advocacy. The next page of the IEP contains an annual goal that states that the youth "will increase his transition skills." The objectives related to the goal include speaking clearly, making eye contact with adults, initiating conversations, independently making decisions, and identifying the sequence of steps needed to complete assignments.

CONCLUSION:

A local educational agency (LEA) must provide each child with a disability a free appropriate public education (FAPE). An LEA meets its obligation to provide FAPE to a child in part by providing special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services in conformity with a proper IEP. The IEP must specify special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services to meet the child's needs. The amount of services to be provided must be stated in the IEP, so that the level of the agency's commitment of resources will be clear to parents and other IEP team members.

In this case, the youth's IEP requires that he receive special education for five periods per day in five specific classes. The complainant stated that she believed the IEP required that those classes would be taught by a special education teacher, as well as a regular education teacher. District staff IEP team members stated that they believed the IEP required that the youth receive special education support in the five classes, through any of three methods. The district acknowledged that the IEP as written did not clearly reflect the intention of the IEP team. The district also acknowledged that it should have reconvened the IEP team when the youth's schedule was changed to include marketing, a regular education class, rather than special education services in the resource room for one period per day. The youth did not receive five periods of special education per day as stated in the IEP. As the district has acknowledged, it should have reconvened the IEP team to review and revise the IEP, as appropriate, so that it accurately reflected the amount of special education and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the youth. There is a violation related to this portion of issue #1. Since the complaint was filed, the district has conducted an IEP team meeting for the annual review and revision of the youth's IEP.

An LEA must ensure that a child is provided with all services required in the child's IEP. Here, the IEP specified that the child would receive sentence starters for all written essays, reports, and research assignments and would receive classroom notes from regular or special education teachers to use as study aids. The youth's government teacher provided outlines of classroom lectures to the youth. The youth received sentence starters for some essays and research assignments from his government and English teachers. The department did not receive evidence that the youth received classroom notes as study aids and sentence starters for all written essays, reports, and research assignments in his classes. There is a violation related to this portion of issue #1.

The youth's IEP also required that the parent receive written progress reports related to the youth's progress toward annual goals. The complainant received quarterly report cards, two mid-quarter reports, and electronic messages from district staff. The district acknowledged, however, that these reports did not address the youth's progress toward the three annual goals in his IEP. There is a violation related to this portion of issue #1.

Beginning at age 14, an IEP must include a transition statement that focuses on the student's courses of study. The statement of transition service needs should relate directly to the student's goals beyond secondary education, and show how planned studies are linked to these goals. The youth's IEP does not include a transition statement that focuses on his courses of study. There is a violation with regard to issue #2.

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DIRECTIVE:

The Appleton Area School District shall, within 30 days of receipt of this report, submit to the department a corrective action plan (CAP) to ensure that:

  1. The youth's current IEP accurately reflects the amount of special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services to be provided the youth, as determined by the IEP team (issue #1);
  2. The youth is provided services consistent with his IEP, and that all high school regular education teachers implement IEP provisions for which they are responsible (issue #1);
  3. The complainant receives reports of the youth's progress toward annual goals, consistent with the requirements of his IEP (issue #1);
  4. The district, consistent with this decision and the department's findings during a recent monitoring visit, provides all parents of children with disabilities with reports of their children's progress toward IEP annual goals (issue #1);
  5. The district convenes an IEP team meeting to determine the youth's transition needs and ensures that the youth's current IEP contains a proper transition statement consistent with legal requirements (issue #2).

The CAP shall include the activities the district will undertake to implement the directives, the personnel responsible for each activity, the date by which each activity will be completed, and the type of documentation that will be submitted to the department as evidence of completion of each activity. If a CAP requires the district to develop one or more products, the district may submit the product(s) as part of the corrective action plan. The CAP will be reviewed and the district will be informed if any revisions are required. The district will implement the CAP after the department has approved it.

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This concludes our investigation of this complaint. This letter is not intended, and should not be construed, to cover any other issues regarding compliance with the IDEA or Chapter 115, Wisconsin Statutes, which may exist and which are not specifically discussed herein. Under the Wisconsin public records law, 19.31-19.39, Wisconsin Statutes, it may be necessary to release this document and related correspondence and records upon request.

signed JSP/SJP
4/5/00
_____________________________________________
Juanita S. Pawlisch, Ph.D., Assistant Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

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For questions about this information, contact Patricia Williams (608) 267-3720