On January 17, 2001 (letter dated January 9, 2001), a complaint was filed with the Department of Public Instruction by XXXXX against the Nicolet Union High 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. In investigating this complaint, department staff reviewed materials submitted on behalf of the district, and interviewed the student's grandmother and staff from the Milwaukee Public Schools district.
APPLICABLE STATUTES AND RULES:
Section 115.76, Wisconsin Statutes
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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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(10) "Local educational agency", except as otherwise provided, means the school district in which the child with a disability resides.
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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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PI 11.07, Wisconsin Administrative Code
(1) DEFINITIONS. In this section "transfer pupil with a disability" means a child with a disability under the IDEA whose residence has changed from an LEA in this state to another LEA in this state or from a public agency in another state to an LEA in this state.
(2) TRANSFER PUPILS WITH DISABILITIES IN WISCONSIN.
(a) The purpose of this subsection is to ensure that there is no interruption of special education and related services when a child with a disability transfers from one LEA in this state to another LEA in this state.
(b) When an LEA receives a transfer pupil with a disability, the receiving LEA shall implement the IEP from the sending LEA until the receiving LEA adopts the sending LEA's IEP or develops its own IEP. To the extent that the receiving LEA is not able to implement the sending LEA's IEP, the receiving LEA shall provide services that approximate, as closely as possible, the sending LEA's IEP.
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FINDINGS OF FACT:
This complaint concerns the education of a student with a disability who has resided in the Nicolet Union High School district since September 2000. Prior to moving to the district, the student, who lives with a grandparent, attended high school in the Milwaukee Public Schools District (MPS). The complainant alleges that in mid-September 2000, the grandmother and her grandchild moved into the Nicolet UHS district. She attempted to enroll her grandchild at Nicolet Union High School. She was told by school personnel that the district would require proof of residency and proof of guardianship before she could register her grandchild. On September 25, 2000, the complainant contacted the high school associate principal and a guidance counselor concerning enrolling her grandson. She was informed that she would have to provide proof of residency and guardianship.
In its response to this complaint, the district states that no documents proving residency or guardianship were received until January 12, 2001, from the complainant. The district received the student's educational records from MPS in early October 2000. These records indicate that the student is a child with a disability. The district sent these records back to MPS, since they had not enrolled the student. On October 16, 2000, the complainant contacted the school again about the status of her grandchild's enrollment. She was informed that the school had not yet received proof of residency or guardianship.
On January 9, 2001, the district received a tuition estimate from MPS. On January 10, 2001, the director of student services requested the high school guidance counselor to begin the process of enrolling the complainant's grandchild. The guidance counselor contacted the complainant on January 11, 2001, and asked her to come to the district to enroll her grandson.
An IEP team meeting was held on January 12, 2001, which the complainant attended. The complainant provided the district with a copy of her lease which confirmed that she was a resident of the district for the past three months. The IEP team agreed to begin special education and related services on January 24, 2001, at the student's previous high school under a tuition agreement.
A local educational agency (LEA) has a responsibility to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each child with a disability who resides in the district. The LEA may not require proof of guardianship before enrolling a resident child who lives with a non-parent. The law requires that when a child with a disability transfers from one Wisconsin school district to another, there is no interruption in needed special education and related services.
In this case, district staff were notified that a student with a disability had moved into their district in September 2000. The child's grandmother repeatedly contacted Nicolet High School staff after moving into the district and attempted to enroll her grandchild in school. The child's school records were received from the student's previous school. Despite this, the district did not enroll the child until January 11, 2001, and the child did not begin attending school until January 24, 2001.
The child's IEP was not implemented for over four months of school after district staff had notice that the student had moved to the district. This interruption of special education and related services constitutes a denial of FAPE. The complaint is substantiated.
The Nicolet Union High School District shall, within 30 days of receipt of this report, submit to the department a corrective action plan (CAP) to ensure that:
- when a child with a disability moves into the district from another district in Wisconsin, there is no interruption of special education or related services.
- The district conducts an IEP team meeting to consider whether additional services may be required to address the delay in the provision of services.
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 it has been approved by the department.
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.
Mike J. Thompson, Assistant Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy