On February 4, 2002, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Mount Horeb Area School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2001-2002 school year, failed to:
- follow requirements related to removing a youth with a disability from school for more than ten days in a school year;
- include a statement of needed transition services in the youth's individualized education program (IEP);
- ensure that the IEP team considered strategies to address behavior impeding the youth's learning; and
- implement provisions of the youth's IEP requiring provision of consumer math, use of NovaNET, and neutral site placement.
On December 21, 2001, the complainant's child was suspended from school for drug possession on school grounds. The suspension began on January 2, 2002, pending an expulsion hearing. A manifestation determination meeting was held on January 15, 2002, and it was determined that the child's behavior was not a manifestation of his disability. A one-page review sheet was sent home for the student to complete as homework. On January 17, 2002, the student was expelled from school until May 2003. On January 21, 2002, an IEP team meeting was held to develop a new IEP including the special education services that would be offered beginning January 22, 2002.
A school district must provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each child with a disability. In order to provide a child with a FAPE, a district must, in part, provide special education and related services consistent with the child's IEP. In addition, the services provided by a district must meet the requirements of the statutes and rules enforced by the department, including those related to the suspension of pupils.
State and federal law govern procedures relating to the suspension of students. A child with a disability may be suspended for up to five days or for up to ten consecutive days if a notice of expulsion has been sent to the child's parents. If an IEP team determines that the conduct is not a manifestation of the student's disability, a student may be suspended for up to 15 days pending the expulsion hearing. More than ten consecutive days of suspension is considered a change in placement. In this case, January 15, 2002, was the student's tenth day of suspension. Beginning on January 16, 2002, the student's suspension resulted in a change in placement and the district was required to provide services to the extent necessary to enable the child to appropriately progress in the general curriculum and appropriately advance toward achieving the goals set out in the child's IEP. Although an IEP team meeting was conducted on January 15, 2002, to review and revise, if necessary, the student's IEP, the student's placement did not change and stated that special education services would be provided in the resource room during the student's study hall. Because the student remained suspended following the January 15, 2002, IEP team meeting, the district failed to provide the student FAPE from January 16, 2002, to January 22, 2002. The IEP developed on January 21, 2002, did include a change in placement and stated that special education services would be provided using homebound services at a neutral site. The district has agreed to convene an IEP team meeting for this student to determine whether additional services are necessary. Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must submit to the department a proposed corrective action plan to ensure that district staff understand the requirements related to providing special education services for students who are suspended.
The complainant also maintains that the district has not adequately addressed the transition needs of her child. Specifically, the complainant alleges that the district denied giving her child retroactive credit for work study from the fall semester because he did not turn in the required form on time, and, that the district discontinued one of the student's work sites, which counted for one-half work-study credits, because the student was allowed to sell beer and cigarettes due to his age. The complainant provided the department with documentation that the student would not receive work-study credits for first semester because, after numerous requests, the student had not submitted the required paperwork, and the student stated that he was unconcerned because he wouldn't need the credits to graduate. The student did submit the required paperwork for the second semester work sites. The documentation also stated that the student's one-half credit from the discontinued work-site will be added to the student's other work-study, maintaining the student's one work-study credit.
A district meets its obligation to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to a child with a disability in part by providing special education and related services which meet the rules enforced by the department and in conformity with a proper IEP. Among the rules enforced by the department are the rules concerning the content of a child's IEP. For students who have attained the age of 16, the statement of special education and related services must include needed transition services, including, when appropriate, a statement of the interagency responsibilities or any cooperative arrangements between and among persons. A statement of needed transition services in the IEP must also include, if appropriate, instruction, related services, community experiences, employment objectives, functional vocational evaluation, and acquisition of daily living skills. The student's January 15 and January 21, 2002, IEPs indicate that instruction in the general curriculum is appropriate to meet the student's transition needs in the areas of instruction; that his community experiences are age-appropriate; mentions the student's employment objective and his work experience; and states that he has the skills to live independently. Neither of the student's IEPs include goals and short-term objectives dealing with transition services for the child, nor are transition services included in the summary of special education services. In its response to the department, the district stated that no one, including the student's parents, raised concerns regarding transition services at any IEP team meeting. After reviewing the student's IEP, the department concludes that the district failed to address some transition requirements. Specifically, the student's January 21, 2002, IEP does not adequately address the student's transition service needs which focus on the student's course of study needed to prepare him for a successful transition to his goals for life after secondary school. The IEP only states, "[Name of student] is on a diploma track." The student's January 21, 2002, IEP also continues to include the work-study job site that was previously discontinued. The district has agreed to convene an IEP team meeting for this student to review and revise the student's IEP to clarify needed transition services. Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must submit to the department a proposed corrective action plan to ensure that the district staff understand the requirements regarding transition services.
The complainants contend the district failed to ensure that the IEP team considered strategies to address behavior impeding the youth's learning. The student's IEPs indicate that behavior has not been a special factor that impedes his learning or that of others. The only behavior concerns deal with inattentiveness and are addressed through accommodations and modifications developed by the IEP teams. The behavior issue leading to the student's expulsion was determined to be a one-time incident, not expected to recur. The department concludes that the district followed the required procedures related to addressing the student's behavior.
The complainants maintain that the district initially refused to implement the provision of consumer math and wanted to reconvene the IEP team meeting. The district acknowledged there was a misunderstanding regarding consumer math but remedied the situation and has provided all coursework as outlined in the IEP. The department concludes that the district implemented this provision of the student's IEP.
In regard to the use of NovaNET, the student's January 15, 2002, IEP mentions the, "Use of NovaNET during study hall for geometry skills was discussed for [student's name]". The IEP further states that there are no specific goals needed at this time. The student's January 21, 2002, IEP does not include the use of NovaNET. The department concludes that in this case, the use of NovaNET was not specifically required in the student's IEP.
The complainants also question the "neutral site placement" because some of the services are provided in the school setting after school hours. The January 21, 2002, IEP lists placement as "homebound", however it lists "neutral site" as the location of special education services. The location of services in the context of an IEP refers to the type of environment that is the appropriate place for the provision of services; for example, regular education classroom, resource room, separate classroom, etc. The student's IEP should make the location for each special education service clear. The district has agreed to convene and IEP team meeting for this student to review and revise the student's IEP to clarify the location of special education services. Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must submit to the department a proposed corrective action plan to ensure that district staff understand the requirements regarding writing clear statements of location of special education services.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST/SJP 5/28/02
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy