IDEA Complaint Decision 00-044

On June 16, 2000 (letter dated June 15, 2000), a complaint was filed with the Department of Public Instruction by XXXXX against Milwaukee Public Schools. 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. In investigating this complaint, department staff reviewed relevant portions of the child's pupil records and the district's written response to the complaint. Also, department staff interviewed the complainant and a district special services administrator.

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ISSUE:

Did the district improperly change the placement of a child with a disability in June 2000 without an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting?

APPLICABLE STATUTES AND RULES:

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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(lm) APPOINTMENT OF TEAM. The local educational agency shall appoint an individualized education program team for each child referred to it under 115.777.

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

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(c) Determine the special education placement for the child under 15.79.

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Section 115.787, Wisconsin Statutes
Individualized education programs.

(1) REQUIREMENT THAT PROGRAM BE IN EFFECT. At the beginning of each school year, each local educational agency shall have in effect, for each child with a disability, an individualized education program.

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Section 115.79, Wisconsin Statutes
Educational placements.

Each local educational agency shall ensure that all of the following occur:

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(2) An educational placement is provided to implement a child's individualized education program.

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Section 115.792, Wisconsin Statutes
Procedural safeguards.

(1) SAFEGUARDS ENSURED.

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(b) The local educational agency shall establish and maintain procedures to ensure that a child's parents are provided prior written notice whenever the local educational agency proposes to initiate or change, or refuses to initiate or change, the identification, evaluation or educational placement of the child, or the provision of a free appropriate public education to the child.

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FINDINGS OF FACT:

The child whose education is the subject of this investigation is a child with a disability who resides in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) district. The child's mother enrolled her in a private school at the beginning of the 1999-2000 school year. In February 2000, the child's mother requested a placement for her daughter in a specific MPS school, Parkview Elementary, which was not her attendance area school. On February 15, 2000, the child's mother submitted a school selection application requesting that her daughter attend Parkview Elementary School for the 2000-2001 school year. The MPS three-choice school selection process requires the parents of students new to MPS and parents of students who are changing schools to submit a school selection application indicating the names of three schools they would like their child to attend.

On February 17, 2000, the district conducted an IEP team meeting to develop an IEP and determine placement. The child's mother attended the IEP team meeting. The parent was informed that there were no special education seats available at Parkview Elementary School, the school she had requested that her daughter attend. The IEP team determined that special education and related services would be provided at the Milwaukee School of Languages. The parent was provided a written notice of placement dated February 17, 2000. On February 28, 2000, the child began attending the Milwaukee School of Languages.

In June 2000, a letter from the Division of Student Services was sent to the child's mother informing her that pursuant to the district three-choice school selection process her daughter was assigned to Parkview Elementary School for the 2000-2001 school year effective August 23, 2000. The child's mother and the mother's advocate informed the district that at this time the mother did not want her child's school assignment changed from the Milwaukee School of Languages to Parkview Elementary School. In response, on July 13, 2000, a letter from the Division of Student Services was sent to the child's mother informing her that her daughter was assigned to the Milwaukee School of Languages for the 2000-2001 school year, effective August 23, 2000. Between June 9, 2000, and August 23, 2000, school was not in session.

CONCLUSION:

A local educational agency (LEA) must appoint an IEP team for each child referred for special education services. The IEP team must determine the special education placement for a child with a disability. The placement decision must be made based on the child's IEP. The LEA must provide parents prior written notice whenever the LEA proposes to initiate or change, or refuses to initiate or change, the educational placement of a child with a disability.

Between February 28, 2000, and June 8, 2000, the child received services according to her IEP and placement. In June 2000 the child's mother was informed in a letter from the Division of Student Services that her daughter was assigned pursuant to the district three-choice school selection process to a different school for the 2000-2001 school year effective August 23, 2000. The child's parent and the parent's advocate informed the district that the mother did not want her child's school assignment changed. On July 13, 2000, a letter from the Division of Student Services was sent to the child's mother informing her that her daughter was assigned to continue at the Milwaukee School of Languages for the 2000-2001 school year. The district's proposed change in the child's school of attendance was withdrawn before the change took effect. Between June 9, 2000, and August 23, 2000, school was not in session. On August 23, 2000, the child is scheduled to continue to receive services according to her IEP and placement determined at a February 17, 2000, IEP team meeting. The district has not improperly changed the child's placement without an IEP team meeting. There is no violation with regard to this issue.

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This concludes our investigation of this complaint, and we are closing this complaint investigation. 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
8/31/00
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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