On June 9, 2005, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the School District of Manawa. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues are addressed below.
- Whether the district properly responded to parent concerns regarding the student's school attendance expressed during the May 2004 individualized education program (IEP) team meeting.
- Whether the district, during the 2004-2005 school year, properly considered including in the student's IEPs required positive behavioral interventions, strategies and supports to address the student's behavior impeding learning.
An IEP team met in May 2004 to review and revise the student's program for the coming school year. The student and one parent attended the meeting and were accompanied by an individual familiar with some of the student's education-related needs. Several district special education and regular education teachers, as well as other district staff, attended. The person who accompanied the parent and student to the meeting described the student's needs at some length and made several recommendations for programming options for the student. Both of these issues originate from these recommendations. The parent recalls that the team did discuss these recommendations, but does not remember that the team actually decided not to include these suggestions in the student's IEP. The IEP developed as a result of the meeting does not include several options proposed by the meeting participant which the parent believes would have benefited the student.
District staff recalled the meeting and the information provided in detail and explained the rationale for not including the recommended approaches to addressing student needs. The rationale relates directly to the student's needs and interests, as well as preferences the student has strongly and repeatedly expressed. The department concludes that the district considered information provided by the parent and that the IEP team decision is reasonably supported by this student's individual education-related needs. Further, the May 2004 IEP includes other behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports to address the student's behavior impeding learning. The goals in the IEP, the services to be provided to meet those goals, and the supplementary aids and services to be provided in regular education address this student's behavior that impedes learning.
- Whether the district properly responded to the parent's request in September 2004 for an IEP team meeting.
In mid-September 2004 the parent sent an e-mail message to the principal of her child's school describing several concerns about her child's education. She requested a meeting. The principal responded the next day, agreed a meeting should be held and indicated that he had requested an IEP team meeting at the earliest available date. District staff proposed a meeting date several weeks later. The parent responded that she could not attend on the date proposed. Although a meeting involving several district staff, the parents, and individuals from other agencies occurred in early November, an IEP team meeting was not conducted until November 30. District staff thought that the reason for the meeting had been addressed in other ways by the time a meeting could have been arranged after the parent declined the proposed date, but acknowledges not having discussed the matter with the parent. Because two IEP team meetings have since been conducted, no child-specific corrective action is required. The district will ensure that when a parent requests an IEP team meeting, the district will ensure that the meeting occurs within a reasonable time frame or that it provides the parents with notice that the district does not agree to hold an IEP team meeting.
- Whether the district, during the 2004-2005 school year, properly implemented the student's IEP regarding permitting the student to go to a safe area, informing the parent regarding the student's behavior, and modifying the student's assignments.
In the fall 2004 the student was in regular education classes and participated in the general curriculum throughout the day. However, the IEP specifies that the student is to seek out the special education teacher, the classroom aide, or the guidance counselor under described circumstances. In early November 2004 an incident occurred involving another student. As a consequence, the student went to the special education teacher's room. After hearing about the incident, the teacher decided she and the student should go to the principal's office. Following her description of the incident, the student asked the principal for permission to go home. The principal responded that he did not think the incident was sufficiently serious for her to go home. The student then became very upset and disruptive. The principal attempted to calm the student but the behavior continued. The student asked to return to the special education room, but the principal refused based on his concern about the student's level of agitation. The parent maintains that this refusal was contrary to the IEP provision. The department concludes that under the circumstances related to this incident, the principal was permitted to refuse the student's request in order to maintain appropriate behavior in school.
The IEP requires modified assignments when the student has extended absences. One of the short-term objectives indicates that the student will ask teachers for a list of make-up work and will complete it on time. The IEP does not otherwise indicate how assignments will be modified. The parent understood that the student would be given extra time to complete assignments and that the assignments to be completed would be modified. The district understood that the student only would be given more time to complete assignments. This was based on the expressed preference of the student and based on the student's general ability to do grade-level work. District teaching staff afforded the student until nearly the end of grading terms to complete assignments. Although district staff had a basis for their understanding of what was expected, the IEP was not sufficiently explicit so that the parent and staff who would implement it understood what was required. The IEP was substantially modified in December 2004. It does not include language regarding modified assignments. In the event the IEP team decides to include a similar provision in future IEPs, it must describe what is intended by the term.
The IEP also requires exchanging e-mail with the parent concerning out-of-ordinary behavior at home or school. The parent maintains district staff should have e-mailed her that the student had not been turning in required assignments and regarding several behaviors prior to a meeting in November when she first heard of these issues. District staff believed that the IEP required them to provide information to the student regarding missing assignments. They did not understand that the IEP intended them to email the parent regarding the student's other behaviors. The IEP does not appear to require district staff to e-mail the parent regarding missing assignments or the particular behaviors. The December IEP does not include a comparable requirement about communicating with the parent. In the event the IEP team considers including a similar provision in future IEPs, it should consider the parent's concerns regarding being advised of missing assignments and clarify the kinds of behaviors covered.
- Whether the district disclosed personally identifiable information from a student's records without parent consent in January 2005.
In January 2005 school staff participated in a meeting which included the student's parents and individuals from other agencies. The meeting was held in the special education teacher's room. The meeting included discussions of the student's IEP. Both parents and an individual who accompanied them to the meeting maintain that another student entered and left the room several times during this meeting and at one point was in the room for at least ten minutes. They believe that information from their child's IEP was discussed during the periods when the student was in the room. The parents did not give written consent for this disclosure of information from their child's records. District staff remember that the student entered the room briefly and left once she discovered that a meeting was being conducted. The teacher indicated that students use the room for various tasks, do enter when the door is closed, but leave promptly once they realize a meeting is occurring.
State and federal law require that a district must obtain signed, written parental consent before it discloses personally identifiable information from a child's education records. The district will communicate with all special education teaching staff that they must ensure that other individuals do not enter meeting rooms where information from student records is being discussed. The district will complete this activity no later than September 5, 2005, and, no later than September 16, provide the department with documentation that it was completed.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy