On April 12, 2005, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the School District of Beloit. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2004-2005 school year:
- Properly and timely responded to a parent's request for an IEP team meeting to revise her child's IEP to include self-advocacy skills;
- Properly responded to a parent's request for a special education evaluation of her child to determine how her child learns; and
- Properly responded to a parent's concerns regarding staff training about the child's disability and a particular approach to addressing the child's needs and student sensitivity training for the child's classmates.
On August 11, September 29, November 30, 2004, and January 4 and 18, 2005, the district held IEP team meetings for this parent's child. The child's parents participated in the meetings in person or by telephone. On August 11, the mother verbally requested self-advocacy skill goals be included in her son's IEP. These goals are also referred to as social skill goals in district and parent correspondence. On August 11 and September 29, in response to the parent's request, the IEP team discussed social skill issues but did not include goals in the child's IEP. On October 4, the parent was sent a copy of draft social skills goals to be considered at an IEP team meeting to be scheduled. On November 15, the child's mother requested the social skill goals and other items in writing. Several written communications and informal meetings between the parent and various district staff discussed the skills the parent requested. On January 18, 2005, the district IEP team added a self-awareness and self advocacy skill goal to the child's IEP.
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 team 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 team 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 did not properly and timely respond to the parent's request for an IEP team meeting to consider self-advocacy skill goals to be included in her son's IEP. Although the district responded to the parent's request and held five IEP team meetings, a decision on the goal was delayed for 5 months which is untimely. The district did not provide the department an acceptable rationale for this delay. Because the January 18 IEP team made a final decision on the self-advocacy goal, no further child specific corrective action is required. By July 15, 2005, the district is directed to verify to the department that the district special education leadership has reviewed district procedures for properly responding to a parent's request for an IEP team meeting to ensure that responses to such requests are timely.
On November 8, 2004, the child's mother met with the district supervisor of special education and verbally requested that her son be evaluated to determine how he learns. On November 15, 2004, in a letter to the supervisor, the parent requested a complete educational reevaluation by person(s) certified for autism. Between November 15, 2004, and January 4, 2005, the child's mother spoke to the special education supervisor on the telephone, in person and by e-mail about the IEP team meeting she had requested to reevaluate her son. The child's mother and the special education supervisor spoke with department consultants and communicated with e-mails regarding the mother's request. On January 4 and 18, 2005, IEP team meetings were held to review and revise the child's IEP and determine continuing placement. The IEP team did not conduct a reevaluation of the child's learning styles. The child's mother attended the meeting and the child's father participated by telephone. At the IEP team meeting, the child's mother was given a letter from the special education supervisor denying a request for an independent educational evaluation (IEE). However, the child's mother never requested an IEE. In her January 3, 2005, letter, the supervisor stated "In view of further evaluation of (student's name) special education program the IEP team will need to reconvene to determine the progress made and any need for changes. It may be necessary to bring other trained persons in to work with the school staff to carry out the needs identified in (student's name) IEP plan." On February 8, 2005, a private autism consultant observed the child at school. Although numerous network meetings for the child were held throughout the 2004-2005 school year, an IEP team meeting was not held to complete a reevaluation.
When a district receives a referral for a child, it must appoint an IEP team to evaluate the child. The IEP team must complete its evaluation, develop an IEP for the child, and notify the parent of the child's placement within 90 days of receipt of the referral, unless the parent agrees to an extension or the department grants one. The district did not respond timely to the mother's November 15, 2004, letter requesting a reevaluation of her son. IEP team meetings for this child are scheduled to be held September 13, 14, 15, and 20, 2005, to complete a three-year reevaluation, develop an annual IEP, and determine placement. The district is directed to include in this reevaluation an evaluation of how the child learns. The IEP team must review existing data and identify what additional data if any is needed to determine how the child learns. This evaluation must be completed by June 30 or the district must obtain an extension from the parent if the child is not available for evaluation during the summer. By October 7, 2005, the district must send to the department a copy of the child's IEP documenting this reevaluation and if necessary the parent's permission to extend the timeline. In addition, the district has addressed with staff timeline concerns and agrees to conduct fall 2005 training for district special education staff to ensure that in response to a parent request, the district evaluates a child with a disability in a timely manner. By October 7, 2005, the district must submit to the department a copy of the agenda with any training documents and a list of staff who attended the training or a list of staff who did not attend and a description of how the district informed these staff of the requirement.
On February 8, 2005, a private autism consultant observed the child at school and a district debriefing session was held. On March 23 and April 26, meetings with the district and the parent were held. The district offered the child's mother an opportunity to attend workshops and conferences related to the concerns of the child's learning. On May 4 discrete training format training was provided to district staff and the child's mother. On May 27 and June 3 sensitivity training by the physical therapist was scheduled to be provided to the child's projected 2005-2006 school year classmates. Although these activities were discussed and agreed to at the meetings with district staff and are included in the private autism consultant's observation report as recommendations, they were not documented in an IEP for the child as a result of an IEP team meeting. At this time the district has responded to the parents' concerns; and any additional services to respond to the parents concerns may be formally addressed in the child's IEP.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 6/9/05
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy