On October 31, 2005, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the School District of Superior. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district timely developed and implemented an individualized education program (IEP) and placement for a student returning to the district in late September 2005.
An IEP team meeting was held on May 4, 2005, for the purpose of determining initial eligibility, review and revision of the IEP, and to determine initial placement. The projected beginning and ending dates were May 9, 2005, to December 21, 2005. From late August through late September 2005, the student was ordered by the court to be placed in a residential care center in a neighboring community. The parent stated that when the student returned home on September 28, 2005, the parent contacted the district about his return and requested an IEP team meeting before the student returned to school.
The district contends that it contacted the mother when the student returned home. The district was prepared to immediately provide services based upon the May 2005 IEP, which included neutral site programming. The district alleges that the mother refused to agree to these services without a new IEP team meeting. The school attempted to schedule an IEP team meeting, but the mother indicated she was not available until October 10, 2005.
On October 10, 2005, an IEP team meeting was held for the purpose of developing an annual IEP that included transition and to determine continuing placement. At this meeting, the district contends that staff agreed that the services and placement listed on the May 2005 IEP were appropriate to meet the student's needs. The parent and student disagreed with the location and the instructor that the district offered and another IEP team meeting was scheduled to reach consensus among the parent, the student, and the district regarding services and location. The district did not follow its policies regarding ensuring student attendance once the student returned to the district in late September. The student did not participate in learning activities until November 2, 2005.
On November 3, another IEP team meeting was held to develop an annual IEP and determine continuing placement. Again staff agreed that an appropriate placement for the student was in a self-contained classroom at an off campus neutral site. The parent and the student again disagreed with the location and proposed that the services be provided at the students residence with the parent in attendance.
Although parents of a child with a disability are afforded the opportunity to participate in the development of the IEP, a public agency must ensure there is no interruption of services provided to a student with an IEP when they return to school. An IEP team meeting may be conducted without a parent in attendance if the public agency is unable to convince the parents they should attend. The public agency must also keep a record of its attempts to arrange a mutually agreed upon time and place. While the IEP team should work toward consensus, the public agency has ultimate responsibility to ensure that the child receives a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Through interviews with the parent and district staff and review of materials, it has been determined the district did not timely develop and implement an IEP and placement for a student returning to the district in late September 2005.
Within 30 days of the receipt of this decision, the district must reconvene an IEP team meeting to determine if additional services are needed as a result of not providing services as specified in the IEP during the 2005-2006 school year. The district must also submit proposed corrective action to review policies and procedures for the timely development and implementation of the IEPs to include the district's responsibilities to afford parents the opportunity to participate in the development of the IEP and the documentation of those efforts.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy