On May 14, 2001, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Appleton Area School District. The issue in this investigation is whether the district failed to provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) which would enable her child to participate in the general curriculum and be educated with non-disabled children to the maximum extent appropriate. This is the departments decision for that complaint.
An individualized education program (IEP) developed for the child during an IEP team meeting held December 6, 2000, includes special education services through the cognitive disabilities program for eight periods per day on Mondays and seven periods per day on Tuesdays through Fridays for the first semester of school, and seven periods on Mondays and six periods on Tuesdays through Fridays for the second semester. The childs IEP also includes 90 minutes weekly of special physical education. The complainant alleges that the district did not consider her requests for her child to receive more time in the regular education environment with appropriate supports, less time on daily living skills and community based instruction and more time spent on academics.
In developing a childs IEP, the IEP team must consider the concerns of the childs parents for enhancing the childs education. The IEP must include an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with non-disabled children in regular classes, in the general curriculum, and in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities. Based on material submitted by the district, including the childs IEP and written responses from the students case manager, associate principal and the director of student services, and telephone conversations with the director of special education, director of student services, and with the complainant, the department determines that the IEP team did consider the parents preferences when developing the childs program. In response to the complainants concern that her child is not receiving enough academic instruction, the district provided evidence that instruction was provided in math, reading, social studies, and science as part of daily living skills. The students IEP also provides that the class, Life Skills, be team-taught with regular education, and 1:1 support be provided in Health Education, a regular education class. The students proposed schedule for the 2001-2002 school year includes: functional academics, direct instruction in reading, math, social studies, and science, job skills, special physical education, fine arts, and regular education art survey or ceramics.
The December 6, 2000, IEP states that due to the students "significant delays in the areas of academics, social and communication, his needs will best be met in 1:1 and small group settings where he can benefit from the opportunity to practice skills in real life activities and in natural settings." In explaining the extent to which the student will not be involved full-time in the general curriculum, the IEP states, "[d]ue to [Students] significant delays in the academic areas, [Student] will get his instruction in a small group environment with special education staff."
The IEP states why the student will not participate full-time in the regular education environment. However, the IEP does not state whether the curriculum the child will receive is general curriculum or special education curriculum. Further, the students IEP does not clearly state the location of special education and supplementary aids and services. Specifically, the students IEP states, "School & Community" or simply, "School" as the location of services. This statement does not enable the parent and others to ascertain the amount of the students participation with nondisabled peers.
The district has scheduled an IEP team meeting for September 21, 2001, to address the students schedule for the year, the extent to which the student will not be involved full-time in the general curriculum and regular education environment, and the location of the special education, supplementary aids and services, and related services the child will receive. The district will submit the new IEP to the department by September 26, 2001. The district also will provide the department with documentation that school staff understand proper procedures for writing statements of "location" in students IEPs. School staff should understand that "location" refers to the type of environment that is the appropriate place for provision of the service, such as, the childs regular education classroom or in a special education resource room. Finally, the district will ensure that staff understand the requirements related to stating in students IEPs the extent to which they will be involved in the general curriculum and in the regular education environment.
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy