IDEA Complaint Decision 03-033

On August 13, 2003, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Appleton Area School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2002-2003 school year:

  • Properly ensured that an individualized education program (IEP) team considered strategies to address a child's behavior which was impeding his learning or the learning of others;
  • Improperly placed the child in time out; and
  • Afforded the parents an opportunity to participate in an IEP team meeting in May 2003.

The student is a student with a specific learning disability. During the 2002-2003 school year, the student had an IEP which was in place until March 2003. In this IEP, behavioral concerns are noted, and a specific strategy is given for reducing the student's frustration when completing assignments. The student's 2003-2004 IEP that was developed as part of a reevaluation, and became effective in March 2003, also addresses behavioral concerns. As part of this IEP, a specific goal was added and benchmarks were included that were designed to increase the student's ability to demonstrate appropriate anger management strategies and deal with frustration. The IEP also added school social work services as a strategy to help the student meet the goal and benchmarks. The IEPs which were in place during the 2002-2003 school year demonstrate that the IEP team properly considered strategies to address behavioral concerns noted at that time.

In May 2003, the student was removed from the class room for disruptive conduct on two separate occasions. On the first occasion, the student was removed for repeated disruptive behavior, which included trying to hit another student. The student was taken to the school office and he was unable to calm down. As a result of his behavior, the student received a one day suspension for his conduct. Approximately a week later, the student was again removed from the classroom for disruptive behavior. After the student was removed, his behavior escalated and he made serious threats. As a result, the student received a two-day suspension.

The school board has approved a code of classroom conduct, which allows teachers to remove students to the school office. Removing the student from his classroom on these occasions was consistent with the district's board approved code of class room conduct, and was not in violation of the student's IEP. Furthermore, although the parents were upset about the involvement of and conduct by the police liaison, nothing prohibited the district from seeking police assistance in these circumstances.

Prior to these incidents, the student's behavior had not escalated in this way, and he was able to calm down after a brief period. The district has informed the department that given the incidents that occurred in May, it will conduct a functional behavioral assessment and implement a behavior intervention plan if necessary.

Finally, the parent maintains that the district did not inform them of a May IEP meeting. There is no evidence that an IEP meeting was held in May, or that one was requested. It appears that on May 21, 2003, school staff met informally with the student and his father. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the student's returning to school after his suspension. It is the principal's consistent practice to meet with the student and the parents before the student returns to school so that there is a clear understanding of what rules were violated and behavioral expectations. This meeting was not an IEP meeting, and consequently, the notice provisions under IDEA did not apply.

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

//signed by SJP 9/26/03
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

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