On March 29, 2002, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Two Rivers School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2001-2002 school year, failed to respond in a timely manner to a physician's request for a special education evaluation of a child during the 2001-2002 school year.
In November 2001, the complainant presented an October 31 letter to the district written by her child's pediatrician that stated, "I believe [student] may qualify for special education under I.D.E.A. as other health impaired". The physician had diagnosed the student as having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
On November 16, 2001, the district staff receiving the letter from the physician wrote to all of the student's teachers informing them of the diagnosis of CFS and stating that he would be initiating a special education referral as requested by her doctor. Rather than conducting a special education evaluation, the district wrote a Section 504 plan for the student. The district did not conduct a special education evaluation because they were uncertain whether the doctor was making a request for an evaluation or simply stating his opinion that the child may qualify for special education. In addition, the district did not believe the student would qualify as having a disability under IDEA.
Under Wisconsin law, a physician who reasonably believes that a child brought to him/her for services has a disability is required to refer the child to the LEA. A referral must be in writing, include the child's name and the reasons why the person making the referral believes the child is a child with a disability. A referral does not need to specifically request a special education evaluation. The doctor's letter was a referral and the district was required to initiate an evaluation.
The district acknowledged its error. The district has initiated a special education evaluation for this specific student. Due to the age of the student and expected graduation this year, the parents do not agree that an evaluation would be warranted now. The district has also agreed to conduct a staff inservice that will include procedures for processing referrals and providing parents with the proper notices. The district will send the department evidence that it has completed this activity.
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