On April 12, 2005, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Hartford Union High School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues relate to the 2004-2005 school year and are addressed below.
- Whether the district implemented a student's individualized education program (IEP) developed in October 2004 regarding group anger management sessions and school psychological services.
The IEP developed in October 2004 requires psychological services to address issues the student may have with peers. An IEP team revised this IEP in January 2005 and continued this service. The IEPs indicate that the frequency of this service is to be bimonthly, but they do not specify an amount or describe the circumstances when the service may be necessary. The amount of services must be stated in the IEP so the level of the district's commitment of resources is clear. If it is not appropriate to state the amount of service as an amount of time, the IEP may describe the circumstances under which the service is needed. The district acknowledges that while the student did meet with the psychologist several times, the student did not receive this service on a bimonthly basis as required by the IEP.
The IEP also requires "Student Assistance Group Stress and Anger Management" as a related service. The IEP team intended that the student would participate in one of two group sessions planned for late fall 2004. These were the only group sessions scheduled by the district during the 2004-2005 school year that focused on this topic. The parent, who attended the IEP team meeting, did not understand that this service only would be offered in the late fall. The student attended school very few days during the time period when these two sessions were offered. The district determined that nearly all absences were excused. The student also received a five-day out-of-school suspension during the time period when the group sessions were conducted. However, another IEP team meeting was convened in January 2005 after the anger management group sessions had been completed. Other portions of the IEP were revised during the meeting, but the related services page continued to indicate that the student would participate in group stress and anger management sessions. The district must hold an IEP team meeting prior to the beginning of the 2005-2006 school year to determine whether the student requires additional psychological services as a consequence of not receiving psychological services required in the October and January IEPs. The district must ensure that the IEP accurately reflects services such as group stress and anger management which will be available during the period the IEP is in effect.
- Whether the district included in the student's IEP needed strategies and supports to address behavior impeding learning.
- Whether the district followed required procedures in disciplining the student.
In addition to the October and January IEP team meetings, IEP teams also met in August 2004 and March and May 2005. The March and May 2005 meetings did not result in revisions to the January IEP. All present levels of educational performance statements on the IEPs relate to the student's behavior in school. The IEPs all include annual goals which address the student's behavioral performance and all IEPs indicate that the student's behavior impedes the student's learning or the learning of others. Each IEP includes positive behavioral interventions, strategies and supports to address student behavior. The goals and behavioral strategies were revised during the course of the school year. The behavioral components of the IEPs were based on this student's needs. The district met requirements related to addressing the student's behavioral needs.
The district suspended the student for a total of fewer than ten days during the 2004-2005 school year. The longest single suspension totaled 5 days. The parent is concerned that the student was suspended for behavior which relates to her child's disability and because her child did not receive services during the suspensions. School districts are permitted to remove students with disabilities from school for more than ten days in a school year to the extent removal would be used with children without disabilities. Districts are not required to provide educational services to students with disabilities during the first ten days of suspension in a school year. The parent also maintains that the district did not conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) for the student and develop a behavior intervention plan (BIP). Districts specifically are required by federal regulation to develop FBAs and BIPs when a student with a disability has been suspended for more than ten days in a school year. However, the student's teacher did conduct an FBA for the January 2005 meeting and the IEP team did develop a BIP for the student even though the student had been suspended for fewer than ten days. Further, during the March 2005 meeting, the district agreed to have another FBA conducted by someone not employed by the district. The results of the FBA were shared with the parent and other IEP team participants during the May 2005 meeting. The parent is satisfied with the second FBA. The district responded to the parent requests for an FBA.
- Whether the district properly determined the extent to which the student is educated with students who do not have disabilities and the student's involvement in the general education curriculum.
Districts must ensure that special classes, separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. The August, October, and January IEPs all require that the student receive all instruction in the special education classroom. The IEP team which met in August based this decision on several factors, including that the student was new to the district and had been in restrictive placements during the previous school year. The parent, who attended the August meeting, agreed with this placement decision. The IEP team properly based its decision on this student's needs and explained in the IEP why the student would not participate in regular education classes.
The IEP for each child with a disability must include a statement of the child's present levels of educational performance, including how the child's disability affects the child's involvement and progress in the general curriculum. The curriculum in all subjects offered in the special education classroom the student would be attending is not the same as the curriculum provided in regular education classes. The August IEP team also discussed whether the student should participate in the curriculum offered in the special education classroom or whether she should be involved in the regular education curriculum. The team decided that the student should begin the year working on the curriculum provided in the special education classroom. This decision was based on the education the student received the previous year and partly on the fact that she was new to the district and staff wanted to assess her learning skills directly for a period of time. The district believes the parent understood that the curriculum offered in this classroom differed from the general education curriculum and that she agreed with the decision in August. However, the district acknowledges that as the year progressed it became apparent that the student could participate in portions of the general education curriculum but the change was not made.
In March 2005 the district decided that it would modify its special education delivery model for all students with disabilities beginning with the 2005-2006 school year. The new model will enable more students to participate in the general curriculum. District staff had preliminary discussions with the parent in the Spring of 2005 about her child's educational program for the coming school year. The parent feels these discussions could produce program changes for her child which will address her concerns regarding curriculum. The district will ensure that the IEP team which meets prior to the beginning of the 2005-2006 school year properly considers and documents its decision regarding the extent to which the student will participate in the general curriculum.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 7/20/05
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy