On October 17, 2003, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against Reedsville Public Schools. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, between February and October 2003, followed required procedures in determining the special education and related services to be provided to a child with a disability who transferred into the district and conducted a timely reevaluation of the student's educational needs.
The student and her parents returned to the district in February 2003 after living outside the state for a number of months. An out-of-state district completed a special education reevaluation in November 2002 and developed an IEP for the student requiring special education services for a learning disability. In February 2003 the Wisconsin district, following state rules and department guidance regarding students who transfer into a Wisconsin school district from another state, adopted the out-of-state reevaluation and IEP after district staff contacted the parent to confirm that she was satisfied with the IEP and determined that it could be implemented as written and in the school that the student would attend if she did not have a disability. During the contact with the parent, district staff learned that the student was beginning to lose her vision. The next school day district staff contacted Cooperative Educational Service Agency staff regarding having a vision teacher conduct an assessment of the student's needs related to her vision loss.
District staff repeatedly attempted to arrange an assessment of the student's vision needs over the following months by contacting nearby districts which may have staff qualified to assess a student's need for vision services. The district also proposed an assessment at the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, but the family rejected this option. District staff also were faced with conflicting information regarding the student's need for vision services and concluded that it must attempt to resolve the conflicts. On August 12, 2003, an IEP team met to conduct a reevaluation of the student and develop an IEP and placement for the 2003-2004 school year. The district gave the parents a notice of placement prior to the first day of school in September.
A district which learns that the student may have additional special education needs may conduct an IEP team meeting to develop a program to meet those needs if information is sufficient to enable the team to make programming determinations. If a district does not have sufficient information to make programming decisions or if an IEP team must determine whether the student has an additional disability, the district must initiate a reevaluation of the student and review existing information to determine what additional information is needed. Because the district determined that staff needed to administer tests or other evaluation materials, the district was required to initiate and complete the reevaluation, develop an IEP and determine a placement for the student within 90 days of beginning the reevaluation. Although district staff did determine an assessment by a vision teacher was necessary, the district did not initiate a reevaluation. The district did not complete the reevaluation within required time limits. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district will submit proposed corrective action to the department to ensure that these requirements are met in the future. No child-specific corrective action is required because the district has completed the reevaluation.
The IEP developed on August 12 requires two hours of vision service per day, five days each week. The duration of the service is stated to be "[a]s soon as services can be obtained." The IEP also requires orientation and mobility as a related service. The amount and frequency of this related service is stated as "to be determined" and the duration is "[a]s soon as services are obtained." The IEP requires supplementary aids and services related to the student's vision needs, such as providing books on tape. Throughout the fall the district has provided the supplementary aids and services required in the IEP. An IEP team met on November 4. The team modified goals in the IEP related to the student's learning disability, but did not make changes to the vision and orientation and mobility services statements. An IEP team which met on December 8 placed the student in another district in order to provide the vision-related services in the IEP. District staff repeatedly tried throughout the fall to arrange with other nearby districts to provide the services required in the student's IEP, but the services were not provided until December 8. The IEP team which met on December 8 did not modify the statements for vision-related services. The staff in the new district concluded that the amount of orientation and mobility service should be determined at a meeting to be held later in December after they have had an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the student's needs.
The amount of services to be provided must be stated in the IEP so that the level of the agency's commitment of resources will be clear to parents and other IEP team members. The amount must be appropriate to the specific service, and stated in the IEP in a manner that is clear to all who are involved in both the development and implementation of the IEP. The district did not properly determine the amount and duration of vision-related services for this student. Although the IEP team which met in August determined that the student required vision and orientation and mobility services, the district did not begin providing those services until December. The district does not employ required staff and staff employed by nearby districts were not available to provide these services. The department recognizes that there is a shortage of vision teachers in the state and that it may be difficult for districts to arrange needed vision services. Nevertheless, the district was required to provide the services promptly after the IEP was developed in August. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district will submit proposed corrective action to the department to ensure that IEP teams properly determine the amount, frequency and duration of special education and related services to be provided to students with disabilities. During the IEP team meeting planned for later in December, the district will ensure that the amount, frequency and duration of services for this student are correctly determined and that the team considers whether the student requires additional service as a result of not receiving services between September and December.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 12/16/03
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy