IDEA Complaint Decision 03-014

On March 11, 2003, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Mauston School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2002-2003 school year:

  • Properly developed an individualized education program (IEP) for a child with a disability transferring into the district at the beginning of the school year;
  • Included required related services and assistive technology devices and services in the IEP developed at the beginning of the school year;
  • Properly responded to parent requests that the student receive the assistance of an educational aide and be permitted to use a calculator;
  • Included required participants for an IEP team meeting on January 21, 2003; and
  • Properly responded to the parents' request for an IEP team meeting to discuss extended school year services for their child.

On August 23, 2002, the student enrolled in the Mauston School District as an out-of-state transfer pupil. The district received the student's records on September 9, 2002. On September 10, 2002, the district sent an invitation for an IEP team meeting to be held September 12, 2002. On September 11, 2002, the parent requested that the meeting be rescheduled and suggested alternate days and times. The district responded on September 12, 2002, with an invitation to an IEP team meeting on September 19, 2002, to meet the parent's request. The IEP team, including the parent, met on September 19, 2002, reviewed and revised the out-of-state IEP.

During the September 19, 2002, meeting, the IEP team reviewed a typed draft IEP. The special education teacher made handwritten notes on the typed draft during the meeting to use in completing the final document. At the conclusion of the IEP team meeting, the mother requested a copy of the notes from the meeting which she received promptly. The placement notice for the IEP states that the IEP will be implemented beginning September 20, 2002. However, the completed IEP was not provided to the parent until mid to late October. From September 19, 2002, to receipt of the IEP in mid to late October, the parent believed that the out-of-state IEP had been fully adopted. A district must provide written notice to a parent a reasonable time before it proposes to initiate or change the provision of a free appropriate public education to a child with a disability. The district will submit a proposed corrective action to the department within 30 days of receiving this decision to ensure that parents receive prior written notice of changes to individualized education programs before implementation.

According to notes taken during the September 19, 2002, meeting, the team discussed providing assistive technology for the student. The district was utilizing classroom amplification systems in the student's general education classroom. The parent preferred the classroom amplification system so he would not look different from other children and did not want to pursue an individual device at that time. The IEP team decided to continue use of the classroom amplification system. When the parent received the final copy of the IEP, she noted that it did not list the assistive technology goals that had been in the previous out-of-state IEP. The goals related to assistive technology listed on the out-of-state IEP dealt with the student becoming familiar with and tolerating an individual auditory listening device during a trial period. The goals were not included in the September 19, 2002, IEP because the IEP team decided to use the classroom amplification system rather than the individual device.

The parent expressed concerns to the district that assistive technology and speech/language were not listed as related services. Speech and language is described as special education on the September 19, 2002, IEP. It had been a related service in the previous out-of-state IEP. In Wisconsin, speech and language may be provided either as special education or as a related service. The services provided by a speech and language pathologist are generally the same whether they are described as special education or as a related service. (Information Update Bulletin 03.05.) Between the discussions of the initial IEP team meeting in September and the finalization of the IEP, district staff considered whether speech and language should be described as special education or a related service on the IEP.

On October 22, 2002, the district contacted the parent via email responding to her concerns about speech and language services being provided as a related service. The district agreed to add it under related services. Notations were made on the district's copy of the September 19, 2002, final IEP document. In the email response to the parent the district acknowledged the need to reconvene the IEP team to formalize these changes as well as address any other concerns that the parent still had. The district reconvened the IEP team on November 12, 2002, when the team revised the IEP to change the description of speech and language services from special education to a related service. During the November 12, 2002, IEP team meeting, the parent requested both the use of a calculator as an accommodation for the student and the assistance of an educational aide. Staff provided the parent with descriptions of appropriate uses for the calculator. A numberline or calculator was added under supplementary aids and services on the IEP. The IEP team decided that there was already a sufficient amount of classroom instructional support available to meet the student's needs and that additional staff was not necessary at this time. The IEP team considered the parent's requests and reached conclusions based on the student's needs.

The IEP team reconvened on December 19, 2002, in response to continued parent concerns about assistive technology. The director of special education invited the regional audiology consultant to attend. During this IEP team meeting, the consultant reviewed various types of assistive learning devices (ALD) and options for use within both the general education and special education settings. IEP team participants discussed assistive technology options, specifically individual and desktop learning devices for environments other than the general education classroom where the amplification system was used. The IEP team decided that the use of a headset style ALD for the student would be implemented on a short trial basis. The trial period was to be reviewed at the January 21, 2003, IEP team meeting.

The parent alleged that the IEP team meeting held on January 21, 2003, did not include the student's special education teacher. The special education teacher was included on the invitation, but she did not attend the meeting due to illness. Within 30 days from receiving this decision the district will submit to the department a proposed corrective action to ensure that IEP team meeting participation is properly documented and that required participants attend.

An IEP team meeting was scheduled for March 18, 2003, to discuss multiple issues including extended year services for the student. The district provided an agenda prior to the IEP team meeting in an attempt to provide a focus. The agenda was developed to provide a framework and was not intended to be restrictive for any of the IEP team participants. The IEP team met almost two hours. The parent wanted to discuss a different issue related to reading. The parent asked for a break at which time the district agreed and offered to reconvene at another time if necessary. The IEP team meeting resumed briefly after the break. The parent abruptly left the meeting stating she intended to homeschool the student. Extended school year issues had not been discussed up to her point of departure.

The parent believes that district staff needs intensive training on the legal processes and procedures. The district maintains that in their effort to be responsive to multiple requests from the parent for IEP meetings as well as the amount, frequency, and intensity of the parent's communications, especially via email, that some minor procedural errors did occur. Even so, the district maintains that throughout the school year, the student was still provided with appropriate educational services based upon his needs.

At the time of this decision, the parent has filed the necessary paperwork with the department to homeschool the student. At such a time that the student does reenter the public school system, the district remains prepared to follow state and federal special education laws in providing appropriate educational services to the student.

//signed 5/9/03
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

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