On March 28, 2005, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Milwaukee Public Schools. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues in this complaint are whether the district, during the 2004-2005 school year:
- Ensured that the student's individualized education program (IEP) is accessible to each of the child's teachers;
- Properly responded to a parent's request for an IEP team meeting;
- Ensured that the student's IEP was reviewed at least annually; and
- Properly responded to the student's repeated absence from school.
On March 25, 2004, an IEP team meeting was held to evaluate the student to determine continued eligibility, develop an annual IEP, transition statement and behavior intervention plan, conduct a manifestation determination, and determine placement. The student and the student's parent attended the meeting. The student was placed at a different school for the reminder of the 2003-2004 school year. The child was assigned to a high school for the 2004-2005 school year with a regular education ninth grade schedule of classes. On July 30, 2004, the student's cumulative education record including the student's IEP was received at the student's high school. The student's March 25, 2004, IEP requires special education instruction 6.5 hours daily in a special education classroom, school social work related services 15 minutes weekly and a behavior intervention plan. The student's assigned special education teacher states that he had requested a copy of the student's IEP from a school secretary but did not see a copy of the student's IEP until March 2005. The high school records office has no record the special education teacher requested the student's IEP or cumulative record. A local education agency (LEA) must ensure that IEPs are accessible to each regular education teacher, special education teacher, related service provider, and other service provider who is responsible for its implementation. The student's IEP was in the student's cumulative education record and accessible to the student's teachers during the 2004-2005 school year. However it was not reviewed by the student's special education teacher until March 2005 for the March 24, 2005, IEP team meeting. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district will submit proposed corrective action to the department to ensure that in this school each teacher or provider is informed of his or her specific responsibilities related to implementing each child's IEP.
On February 22, 2005, the student's Wrap Around care coordinator, provided through the county, delivered the student's mother's written request for an IEP team meeting to the school lead teacher. On March 24, 2005, the district held an IEP team meeting for the student. The student and the student's parent attended the meeting. The law requires a school district to hold IEP team meetings periodically to review a child's IEP but not less than annually. Parents may request an IEP meeting at any time. A school district should grant any reasonable parent request for an IEP team meeting. If the district does not grant the request for an IEP meeting, it must provide written notice to the parent including an explanation of why the district has determined a meeting is not needed. The department concludes that the district properly responded to the parent's request for an IEP team meeting. The district responded to the parent's request for an IEP team meeting by holding an IEP team meeting on March 24, 2005. In addition this meeting was held within one year of the student's March 25, 2004, IEP team meeting thus the student's IEP was reviewed annually.
The student's record of attendance retrieved from the district electronic student information system (ESIS) reports the student absent on part or all of 115 days between September 7, 2004, and March 24, 2005. High school staff stated that the district's ESIS record may not reflect accurate attendance information for this student and are in the process of hand writing an attendance record. State statute defines a habitual truant as a pupil who is absent from school without an acceptable excuse on part or all of 5 or more days on which school is held during a school semester. On September 13, 2004, this student was a habitual truant. On September 23 and December 9 the school attendance secretary referred the child to the school social worker (SSW) because of excessive absences from school. District policy provides that the SSW submits truancy referrals to legal authorities. No truancy referral was made. On December 13, 2004, a new SSW was assigned to the school. The school lead teacher notified the student's parent of the student's truancy through letters dated October 4, 11, and December 16, 2004. On January 26, 2005, the student's special education teacher submitted a SSW referral. The SSW attempted to reach the student's mother by phone and on February 28, 2005, spoke with the student's Wrap Around care coordinator and parole officer. On January 26, April 7, and April 15, 2005, the school sent letters to the parent by certified mail, as required by state statute, that the child was a habitual truant. The April 7 and 15 letters were returned to the school unclaimed. The student's March 24, 2005, IEP documents that the student does not get up on time in the morning and school officials have not allowed the student to enter the building after a certain hour. In addition, even on one occasion when the child was escorted to school by a Wrap Around crisis worker, he was not allowed to enter the school.
The student is now scheduled to come to school at 11:30 three days a week as documented in his March 2005 IEP. A written directive has been sent to the school office and building entries notifying staff to allow the student into the school. As of May 18, 2005, the student has not attended school. The district did not take timely action to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to the child when he had significant absences from school. However, the district is now addressing the student's attendance through IEP team meetings and SSW interventions. The district is directed to hold an IEP team meeting as soon as possible to review the student's IEP to determine appropriate interventions and services including what additional services are required because of the delay in providing services. By June 17, 2005, the district must send to the department a copy of the student's IEP documenting any additional services with attendance interventions and a copy of a corrected attendance record for the student. Department staff will continue to work closely with the district to assist in its continuous improvement and focused monitoring activities including attendance issues.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy