IDEA Complaint Decision 02-033

On May 20, 2002, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the School District of Janesville. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district:

  • during the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 school years, failed to provide required special education services to a child with a disability utilizing properly licensed teaching staff; and
  • during the 1999-2000, 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 school years, failed, during individualized education program (IEP) team meetings, to consider the parent's concerns related to her child's sensory needs.

The student has disabilities in the areas of visual impairment, orthopedic impairment, and speech and language impairment. During the school years covered by this complaint, the student received special education services at the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (WCBVI). Her IEP for the 1999-2000 school year required special education "vision services" of 100 minutes per week, and the 2000-2001 IEP required 120 minutes of "vision services" per week. Vision services to be provided to the student are described in one of the goals in each IEP. The parent alleges that these services were not provided by properly licensed special education teaching staff. The department advises districts to avoid using the phrase "vision services" when describing the special education services to be provided to a student with a vision impairment. Using the phrase "vision services" on the IEP may not provide for a clear understanding of the special education that the child needs. Designation of specific areas of instruction, such as Braille or orientation and mobility, allows for a better understanding of the specific instruction to be provided.

The student received special education instruction at WCBVI from a teacher licensed in the area of cognitive disabilities. The teacher received consultative support related to the student's vision services approximately once a month from a teacher licensed in the area of visual impairment. If a special education teacher has a license in a child's area of disability, the teacher generally is presumed to be qualified to teach the child. In this case, the special education teacher was not licensed in the student's areas of impairment and received limited consultative support from a teacher licensed in visual impairment. The department concludes that, in order to appropriately provide the vision services required by the student's IEPs, the special education teacher should have received consultative support from a teacher licensed in visual impairment more than approximately once a month. As a corrective action, the department will provide technical support and direction to WCBVI administrative and special education staff to ensure that special education staff who provide vision services to students with disabilities are appropriately supported and trained to provide such services.

The parent also alleges that, at IEP team meetings held during the 1999-2000, 2000-2001, and 2001-2002 school years, the district failed to address her concerns related to her child's sensory needs. The student's IEPs for those years contain information and services related to her sensory needs. All three IEPs state that the student will utilize closed circuit television and a speech output computer with enlarged graphics, as well as other assistive devices. In the district's response to the department, district staff stated that handheld magnifying devices that the parent was interested in were not utilized because of the student's behavioral history of throwing objects. District staff stated that IEP team participants, including the parent, were asked at the conclusion of each IEP team meeting if they felt any changes to the IEP were needed, and the parent did not recommend any changes. The department concludes that the district did not fail to address the parent's concerns related to the student's sensory needs at IEP team meetings held during the relevant school years.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 8/19/02
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

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