On May 31, 2001, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Rhinelander School District. The issues in this investigation are whether the district, during the 2000-2001 school year, made changes to the childs March 22, 2001, individualized education program (IEP) without conducting an IEP team meeting, and failed to provide the parents with prior written notice of its refusal to provide extended school year (ESY) services to their child. This is the departments decision for that complaint.
An IEP developed for the child during an IEP team meeting held March 22, 2001, requires the student to receive 90 minutes per week of speech and language therapy services through the school districts summer school program during the weeks summer school is in session. Complainants allege that when the provision of speech and language services for the summer was discussed, it was agreed that the services would be the same as in the previous IEP, that is, that their child would receive "direct individual" speech and language therapy services. When they received a copy of the March 22, 2001, IEP, the words, "direct individual" were omitted from the above statement of services. A blank space was left where the words once appeared.
Based on materials submitted by the complainants, and on discussions with the complainants and the districts director of student services, the department determines that the words, "direct individual" were deleted from the childs March 22, 2001, IEP, after the meeting took place. The IEP page in the March 22, 2001, IEP containing the statement of special education services needed for this child, includes the statement, "Through the school districts summer school program, [child] will receive [blank space] speech and language therapy services that will address her IEP goals." This page was an identical copy of the same page from a previous IEP written on January 17, 2000, with the exception that the words "direct individual" were not deleted.
Whenever a district wants to change the provisions in a childs IEP, it must conduct an IEP team meeting. The IEP team did not decide to change the students IEP by deleting the words "direct individual" from the speech and language therapy services the child was to receive during the summer. Since the complaint was filed, an IEP team meeting was held on June 5, 2001, and this deletion has been corrected. In addition, the district agreed to provide the student with the services outlined in her IEP including providing her with a tutor. The district will provide the department with documentation that school staff understand proper procedures for amending IEPs of students with disabilities. This documentation should include evidence that staff understand that modifications to a students IEP that change the provision of services may be made only through an IEP team meeting.
The complainants further allege that the IEP team agreed at the March 22, 2001, IEP team meeting that their child qualified for extended school year services due to regression over the summer in math, reading, and speech and language. The complainants maintain that the LEA representative for the district refused to include extended school year services for math and reading because she does not have the authority to commit these district resources. The complainants did not receive prior written notice of the districts refusal to provide extended school year services to their child in the areas of reading and math.
A district must provide prior written notice that meets statutory requirements whenever it refuses to initiate or change the provisions of FAPE to a child. Ideally, written notice should be provided at or immediately following a meeting in which the district refuses to initiate or change the provision of FAPE to a child. No notice was sent to the complainants when their request for ESY services, specifically reading and math, was denied. The district failed to follow proper procedures in regard to this issue. The district will provide the department with documentation that school staff are aware of the proper procedures whenever a parent requests that the LEA take or not take an action, and the LEA proposes an alternative or refuses the request. This documentation should include evidence that staff understand that the above relates to parent requests in the areas of identification, evaluation, IEPs, placement, and provision of FAPE, and that the LEA must provide a notice to the parent regarding why the LEA is not going to grant the request of the parents.
//signed CST 8/6/01
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy