On February 15, 2005, (letter dated February 7), the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Pulaski Community School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district implemented a student's individualized education program (IEP):
- Between February and June 2004 regarding conducting team meetings every 6 weeks;
- During September 2004, regarding use of a quiet area and sensory diet and provision of one-to-one adult support and instruction; and
- During the summer 2004 extended school year program regarding the student's education with other students.
An IEP team meeting was held in April 2003 for the purpose of evaluation including determination of eligibility, initial IEP development and placement. The April 2003 IEP requires team meetings every 4-6 weeks during the school year as program modifications or supports for school personnel. An IEP team meeting was held in April 2004 for the purpose of annual IEP development and placement. The April 2004 IEP also required team meetings every 6 weeks during the school year as program modifications or supports for school personnel.
The district acknowledges that between February and June 2004 team meetings were not conducted every four to six weeks. Instead, the special education teacher used a daily communication log supplemented with daily personal conferencing with the mother. The district recognizes that the IEP team should have reconvened and reviewed and revised as necessary the changes in the modes of communication under the program modifications and supports for school personnel.
Under special factors, the IEP team determined that the student had behavior and communication needs. Positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports to address that behavior include: the use of various visual schedules, verbal, physical, gestural prompting, reinforcers for appropriate behaviors, utilization of a quiet area, use of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), and a behavioral intervention plan. The behavioral intervention plan lists target behaviors of concern as aggressive behaviors including hitting, kicking, and throwing. Restrictive interventions to reduce target behaviors included removal to a quiet area.
The quiet area was a separate area within the resource room which had walls built to the ceiling, a nonlocking door, and a window. The parent alleges that the intended use of the quiet area had been as a place for the student to regroup himself before returning to activities with others. Interviews with staff confirm this was the intent of the IEP. The parent alleges that the quiet area is now viewed negatively by the student and has increased the student's resistance to its use. Based upon interviews with school personnel the department determines that the quiet area was being used more frequently and the student was reacting more negatively to its use over time.
The program summary states that supplementary aids and services include: sensory diet and visual schedules with an amount and frequency of "daily"; quiet area with an amount and frequency of "as needed"; one-on-one direct adult support with an amount and frequency of "daily" (6.25 hours). These supplementary aids and services were not clearly defined within the IEP or the behavioral intervention plan so that IEP providers could consistently implement their use.
The IEP must include a statement of the special education and related services and of supplementary aids and services and program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child. The amount of services must be stated in the IEP so the level of the LEA's commitment of resources is clear. If it is inappropriate to state the amount of service by stating an amount of time, the IEP may describe the circumstances under which the service is needed. The district did not follow these requirements. Because of the lack of specificity in the IEP, it was not possible for school district personnel to provide a consistent level of service in the amount and frequency and location of the services to be provided.
The April 2004 IEP requires extended school year services with goals in the areas of reading, written language, math, social and behavior. The goal of the social/behavior area focuses on increasing the student's personal social skills so that the student can participate in social routines and procedures with his peers. The schedule for extended school year services included participation with other students who are learning disabled which met four mornings a week for six weeks during the summer. The location was the student's home school. The student also participated in a two week summer program at a private school. He attended both locations accompanied by an instructional aide as stated in the IEP. The district implemented the IEP regarding the student's education with other students during the summer 2004 extended school year program.
The student has since been placed through the IEP team process at a County Children with Disabilities Education Board school located within the school district. No child-specific corrective actions are required.
Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must submit proposed corrective actions to ensure that all district staff understand the IEP requirements as well as requirements for the appropriate use of seclusion in special education programs. As part of the corrective action plan, actions to be taken by the district must include:
- The district will develop policies and procedures for the use of seclusion in special education programs consistent with the February 2005 Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction guidelines.
- The district, in cooperation with the department, will provide training by the start of the next school year on the use of seclusion as well as development of behavioral intervention plans.
- This training will be provided to all special education staff, substitute teachers, and as appropriate, administrative staff.
- By September 30, 2005, the district will document completion of all corrective activities and submit this documentation to the department.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy