IDEA Complaint Decision 04-021

On May 3, 2004, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against Milwaukee Public Schools. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district responded properly to a parent request in April 2004 for an independent educational evaluation (IEE) of her child.

On April 21, 2004, an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting was held for the child in this complaint. The child's mother was present at the IEP team meeting accompanied by an attorney. The mother maintains that she requested an IEE for her daughter during the IEP team meeting. District staff did not perceive the parent's request as a request for an IEE. On April 29, an IEP team meeting was held for the child. The child's mother was present at the meeting and provided the district two evaluations completed by non-district evaluators in 2002 and 2003. The district agreed to consider the information available in these two non-district evaluations at a future IEP team meeting scheduled to be held in June 2004. The child's mother has indicated that the June 1 IEP meeting did not address her concerns and she is continuing to request an IEE for her daughter.

On May 7, the district received by facsimile the parent's letter of complaint to the department. The parent states in her letter that she requested an IEE for her daughter on April 21, 2004. In a May 25 letter to the child's mother, the district responded to the parent's April 21, 2004, request. The district enclosed with the letter to the parent a copy of the district's IEE policy. The letter does not include information about where to obtain an IEE or information about the district's IEE criteria. In the letter, district staff indicates that they did not understand the parent was objecting to an evaluation conducted previously by the district or to the district's eligibility determination.

In its response to the complaint, the district asserts that because the April 21 IEP team meeting did not discuss the results of an evaluation or address eligibility for services, the parent was not requesting an IEE. The law does not require such a discussion as a precondition for requesting an IEE. District policy, previously approved by the department, indicates that a parent is eligible for an IEE at public expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation conducted or obtained by the district. The policy indicates that "evaluation" means procedures used to determine whether a child has a disability and the nature and extent of the special education and related services the child needs. Here the parent was requesting an evaluation to determine the nature and extent of services her child needs. Once the district received the parent's IEE request on May 7, it was required to respond either by agreeing to the IEE request or by requesting a hearing to show its evaluation is appropriate.

The district is directed to immediately provide the child's parents information about where to obtain an IEE and the district's IEE criteria. A copy of the information sent to the child's parents also must be sent to the department by July 8, 2004. The district also is directed to respond, without further delay, to the parent's request for an IEE either by initiating a hearing to show its evaluation is appropriate or by ensuring that an IEE is provided at public expense. The district is directed to notify the department of the action it takes in complying with this directive by July 8, 2004. By August 1, 2004, the district must provide the department with a draft memorandum to be distributed to all special education staff, principals, assistant principals, leadership specialists, and any other appropriate staff clarifying the district's responsibility when a parent requests an IEE, including clarifying parent requests which are not clear to district staff. By September 1, 2004, the district must distribute the memorandum to appropriate staff. By October 1, 2004, the district must submit to the department a written distribution list by staff title and written assurance that the list includes all special education staff, principals, assistant principals, and special education leadership liaisons.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 6/28/04
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

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