IDEA Complaint Decision 00-066

On December 8, 2000 (letter dated December 8, 2000), a complaint was filed with the Department of Public Instruction by XXXXX against the 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 youth's education records and written statements from the district and complainant. Department staff contacted by telephone two district special education supervisors, an assistant principal, special education teacher and interviewed the child, parent and complainant.

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ISSUE:

Did the district in August 2000, improperly change the placement of a child with a disability without conducting an individualized education program team meeting?

APPLICABLE STATUTES AND RULES:

Section 115.76, Wisconsin Statutes
Definitions.

In this subchapter:

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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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(c) Determine the special education placement for the child under 115.79.

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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, CONCLUSION AND DIRECTIVE:

The child with a disability whose education is the subject of this investigation is 15 years old and resides in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) district. On November 26, 1999, an IEP team determined the child was eligible for special education, developed an IEP, and determined placement. The notice of placement indicates that the child's IEP is to be implemented at a named middle school building beginning December 9, 1999. The notice, however, does not indicate the high school building at which the IEP would be implemented beginning August 2000. On August 23, 2000, the child started the 2000-01 school year at an MPS high school building. By letter dated December 21, 2000, an MPS supervisor acknowledged on behalf of the district that a violation occurred when the district failed to identify the high school building at which the IEP would be implemented. On December 8, 2000, and January 10, 2001, IEP team meetings were held for the child. An IEP team meeting is scheduled to be held for the child on January 17, 2001.

As acknowledged by the district, the department concludes that a violation occurred with regard to the issue in this complaint. Specifically, the IEP team identified the middle school building at which the IEP would be implemented, but failed to determine the high school building at which the IEP would be implemented beginning in the fall. However, the district is taking steps to correct the placement error for the child at an IEP team meeting to be held January 17, 2001. The district must send to the department a proper notice of placement following the January 17 meeting. To ensure future compliance on the issue in this complaint, the Milwaukee Public Schools, within 30 days of the date of this decision, will advise appropriate staff of the requirement that IEP teams determine the buildings at which the IEP will be implemented. Further, when a child with a disability will be transitioning from one level to the next (elementary to middle, middle to high school, and K-8 to high school) during the duration of an IEP, the IEP team must determine the building at the child's current level, as well as the building at the level into which the child will be transitioning.

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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 MJT
1/16/01
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Mike J. Thompson, Assistant Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

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