On April 25, 2001, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). The issues in this complaint are whether the district: failed to provide a child with a disability a free appropriate public education between September 5, 2000, and April 25, 2001, when the child had a significant number of school absences; failed to determine at a March 29, 2001, individualized education program (IEP) team meeting whether the child requires transportation as a related service; and failed to provide the parent a notice of placement and a copy of the childs IEP that was developed at a March 29, 2001, IEP team meeting before implementing the IEP. This is the departments decision for that complaint.
Between September 5, 2000, and April 25, 2001, the child was absent from school without an excuse 134 days. State statute defines an habitual truant as a pupil who is absent from school without an acceptable excuse on part or all of 5 or more days on which school is held during a school semester. The childs special education teacher notified the childs parent of the childs truancy through telephone calls. The district did not notify the parent by registered or certified mail, as required by state statute, that the child was an habitual truant. On December 5, 2000, the special education teacher referred the child to the school social worker (SSW) because of excessive absences from school. District policy provides that the SSW submits truancy referrals to legal authorities. No truancy referral was made. The SSW did not attempt to contact the parent until January 10, 2001. The district did not take timely action to provide FAPE to the child when she had significant absences from school. The department has received corrective action materials from the district following other recent complaint investigations related to this issue. The district will work with the department to review and revise their corrective actions with regard to this issue within 30 days of this letter.
On March 29, 2001, an IEP team meeting was held to conduct a three-year reevaluation, develop an annual IEP with a transition statement, and determine placement for the child. The childs parent did not attend the IEP team meeting because the notice was mailed to the wrong address. Beginning on January 10, the SSW attempted parent contacts four times. The SSW was successful on the fourth attempt, March 30, 2001, and scheduled an April 3 conference. However, the parent did not come on the scheduled day and the conference was not held. On May 2, 2001, the parent and SSW had a conference at school. On May 2, the parent stated that she had not been notified of her daughters March 29, 2001, IEP team meeting. The SSW explained to the parent that the school had two different addresses for the parents home and that the notice for the March 29, IEP team meeting had been sent to the wrong address and returned. The district has taken steps to ensure the correct address is documented for the child and parent.
On March 29, the IEP team decided that door-to-door transportation should continue for the child. However, the March 29, 2001, IEP which was sent to the parent did not include documentation of the related service of transportation. On May 8, 2001, the district corrected the error adding door-to-door transportation twice daily for the school year to the related services section of the childs March 29, IEP. The parent was mailed a copy of the corrected page of the IEP. The district did not send a bus to the childs home until May 14. The bus that was sent could not pick the student up at the door as required by the IEP. The student attended school May 15. However, the bus service provided was not door-to-door transportation. The childs parent again kept the child home until May 29, 2001, when door-to-door transportation was provided.
The district will conduct an IEP team meeting, at a mutually agreed to time, no later than 10 days after receipt of this decision to consider additional services which may be required due to the lapse in services. The district will, within 30 days of receipt of this decision, submit to the department a plan to ensure that the district documents in a childs IEP and provides this child, and all children with disabilities, the related services determined by the childs IEP team.
This concludes our investigation of this complaint.
//signed MJT 6/18/01
Mike J. Thompson, Assistant Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy