IDEA Complaint Decision 02-021

On March 26, April 25, and June 11, 2002, the Department of Public Instruction received complaint letters under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Reedsburg School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2001-2002 year, failed to:

  • implement the student's individualized education program (IEP) between January 14 and March 26, 2002, and April 3 and April 24, 2002, when the student had a significant number of school absences;
  • implement the student's IEP regarding transition services; and
  • consider the parent's request for an extended school year (ESY) placement.

This issue concerns a 21-year-old adult student with a disability enrolled in his final year of high school who, due to significant absences, did not complete the required course assignments and did not earn sufficient credit to graduate by the end of second semester. The parents allege that the district did not provide special education services to their adult child between January 14 and March 26, and April 3 and April 24, 2002 when he was absent from school. They state that since January 14 their child was placed on medications for his epilepsy, which caused sleepiness and severe headaches, and prevented him from attending school on a daily basis.

In materials provided to the department, the pupil services director indicated the adult student was absent on January 17, 18, 21 - 25, 28, and February 1, and February 4 through March 25. During the period of April 3 through April 24, the student resided at the Marshfield Clinic for an evaluation related to his seizure disorder. The parents indicated their son was not medically able to attend school. On February 8, 11 and 21, the school psychologist requested from the parent a doctor's statement explaining the reason for the student's significant absences. The district received two physician letters on March 22. On May 1, the school nurse contacted the student's Marshfield Clinic doctor to confirm the reason for his absences and, if needed, any accommodations. The district maintains that the doctor stated over the phone that the student needed to get up in the morning and go to school. In a fax, he stated that "other than the student's tiredness, the medical issues were not significant enough to require consideration of home schooling."

The parents requested that homework be made available for their son while he was absent. The homework was made available in the counselor's office on or about January 25, February 15, March 18 and in April, but no assignments were picked up until April 26. In a letter to the department, the parents stated the assignments were not always in the counselor's office and that some of the homework pieces were missing. Beginning January 21 through the end of March, the school psychologist, special education teacher, and counselor made attempts to contact the student and parents, via phone calls and written letters, regarding his school absences, lack of completed assignments, and course credits needed for graduation.

On January 7, February 5, April 29, and May 2, IEP team meetings were held to review and revise the adult student's current IEP. The student attended two of the meetings. At the May 2 IEP meeting, the team agreed that the student would be given until June 28 to complete his course assignments and when completed he would receive credit and a high school diploma. The date of completion was based on the days he missed while in the hospital from April 3 through April 24. In addition, the IEP also stipulated the student would be provided a tutor for up to 3 hours per week from June 3 through June 28 to assist him in completing his assignments. The student completed all course assignments on June 28 and received his diploma on July 2.

A district must provide special education services to students with disabilities, ages 3 to 21. Compulsory school attendance law applies until the semester when a student reaches age 18. The district, in this situation, was required to ensure that services set out in the student's IEP were made available and to convene IEP team meetings to address changing needs. The department has determined that the district did take measures to ensure that services in the adult student's IEP were available between January 14 and March 26, and April 3 and April 24, when the student had a significant number of absences and that IEP team meetings were conducted to review the student's IEP.

The parents allege that the district did not implement the student's transition services in his February 5 IEP. An IEP team met to review and revise the adult student's IEP on January 7, February 5, April 29, and May 2; the student attended two meetings. The February 5 IEP states the student will receive the following transition services: meet with MATC, DVR, and Human Services representatives; explore employment opportunities and interests; and determine an area of vocational interest. During a phone interview, the school psychologist indicated that staff were unsure if the student and parents met with the MATC representative because the student was not in school. The student and parents worked with the DVR and Human Services representatives on an ongoing basis throughout the 2001-2002 school year. The student indicated his preferences and interests in the area of computers and he enrolled in a Computer Applications class and a Communications class. The school psychologist also stated that the special education staff worked with the student on exploring employment options by providing different work study jobs throughout the school year, but due to his medical condition during the second semester, he did not participate in these jobs. Because the student was over age 18, attending school and participating in an instructional program is voluntary. The department has determined that the district did ensure that the student's instructional program, including his transition services, were made available during his time of school absences.

The parent alleged that at the May 2 IEP team meeting, she requested the team to consider an ESY placement for her son. During a phone interview, both the pupil services director and school psychologist indicated that the IEP team considered an ESY placement based on the student's educational needs and doctor's statements. The team determined that rather than an ESY placement, the student needed extra time to complete his missed course assignments and to earn the required credits to graduate. The department has determined that the district did ensure that an ESY placement was considered at the May 2 IEP team meeting.

This concludes our review of this complaint, and we are closing this complaint investigation.

//signed CST 8/26/02
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

Dec/svb
For questions about this information, contact Patricia Williams (608) 267-3720