On December 17, 2003, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Southern Door County School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district properly responded to:
- The parent's requests, between December 2002 and July 2003, to review her child's education records and to her requests in June and July 2003 to amend her child's education records; and
- The parent's request in February 2003 to have her child evaluated to determine whether he needs special education and related services and completed the evaluation within the required time period.
A school district is required to provide parents of a child access to their child's education records without unnecessary delay and before any meeting regarding an IEP, and in no case more than 45 days after the request was made. Education records includes all records, files, documents, and other materials which contain information directly related to a student and are maintained by the educational agency. It does not include notes or records maintained for personal use if such records or notes are not available to others.
On December 5, 2002, the parent made a written request to see all of her child's student records, including attendance and behavioral records. On December 18, 2002, because she had not received a response, she repeated this request, and she was informed that she needed to contact the school principal, which she did on December 19, 2002. On December 20, 2002, the parent was given access to the records, which she reviewed. However, the district acknowledges that some materials were inadvertently not made available. The district states that classroom teachers maintain a log containing individual student detention data, which is destroyed at the end of each school year, and the parent was not given access to this data before destruction. The district does not assert that these logs were personal notes of the teacher. The district also acknowledges that it is likely that the parent was not given access to the student's attendance record because the record is maintained in a computer file and paper copies are not regularly printed.
Furthermore, on June 2, 2003, the parent sent an email to the principal stating that the records she had previously requested appeared to be incomplete, and requested that her child's pupil records again be made available at the IEP team meeting on June 4, 2003. On June 9, 2003, the parent sent an email to the school psychologist requesting to see any pupil records that she may have in a separate file. On July 7, 2003, the parent repeated her request to the principal because the records were not available at the June 4th meeting. On July 21, 2003, the principal permitted the parent to review the records for a second time, although it is unclear from the district's response whether the principal contacted the psychologist to determine if she maintained any pupil records in a separate location. Thus, the records were not provided, as required, prior to the IEP team meeting, and in any event, not within the 45-day time period.
The district proposes as corrective action to revise its board policy on student record access to add the definition of an education record. The department directs the district to provide the department with a copy of this revised policy within 30 days of receipt of this decision. The district is also directed to submit to the department within 30 days a corrective action plan to ensure that the district timely provides parents with access to education records. This corrective action must ensure that the parent is given access to her child's pupil records currently maintained by the district. This access must be provided without unnecessary delay and in no case more than 45 days after receipt of this decision.
A parent has a right to request amendment of their child's education records maintained by the district. If the district refuses the request, it must inform the parent of its decision and advise the parent of the right to a hearing. The district must respond to the parent's request within a reasonable time. On June 3, 2003, the parent requested that corrections be made in a specific document. Although the district made some changes, it did not make all of the changes requested by the parent because it considered the information correct. On July 3, the parent requested that several other changes be made, and again although some of the changes requested were made, others were not. The district acknowledges that it did not inform the parent of its decision to not make the changes, or advise her of the right to a hearing. The district proposes as corrective action to amend its board policy to incorporate the district's obligations when a parent's request to amend a student record is denied. The department directs the district to provide the department with a copy of this revised policy within 30 days of receipt of this decision. The district is also directed to submit to the department a corrective action plan within 30 days to ensure that district staff is aware of the revised policy and of their corresponding obligations. With regard to the parent's request to amend the record, the district is directed to provide notice to the parent of the specific changes it denied, and of the right to a hearing.
A district must ensure that evaluation decisions are completed within 90 days following receipt of referrals. State law permits districts to seek an extension of the 90-day time limit, first from the parent and then from the department if the parent does not agree to an extension. The district received the parent's written request for a referral on February 17, 2003. The district was required to complete the process by May 18, 2003. On June 4, 2003, the IEP team met and the parent requested that the student's eligibility be considered under a different impairment. On June 20, 2003, the district sent a form to the parents requesting permission to extend the time until July 20, 2003. This form was signed by the parents on June 26, 2003. On July 17, 2003, the district requested permission to extend the evaluation timeline again because it felt that additional information was needed. The parent did not give permission for this extension, and on August 1, 2003, the department received a request for an extension. On August 8, 2003, the parents requested a due process hearing. The issue of whether the student was a child with a disability was eventually resolved through the mediation process, and the hearing was dismissed.
The district was required to obtain consent for an extension from the parents or from DPI before the 90-day timeline ended on May 18, 2003. The parent did not receive the request until June 20, 2003. Furthermore, the second request to the department was not made until after the expiration of the extension date. Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must submit a proposed corrective action plan to the department to ensure that special education staff are aware of the requirements related to completing evaluations within required time limits, including the process for requesting an extension. However, because the issue was resolved through mediation, no further child specific corrective action is required.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 2/13/04
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy