On December 23, 2005, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the School District of Brodhead. This is the departments decision regarding that complaint. The issues relate to individualized education program (IEP) team meetings held in October and November 2005 and are set out below.
- Whether the district properly informed the parent of the right to additional time and a copy of the evaluation report at the beginning of IEP team meetings.
These issues primarily relate to the parents belief that the IEP team was not afforded sufficient time to reach agreement regarding the students reevaluation and IEP review and revision. The IEP team met on October 25 and November 8, 2005. The team completed the students reevaluation during the October meeting, which continued for over three hours and into the early evening. Although the team considered proceeding with the development of the students program, participants decided instead to schedule a second meeting to review and revise the IEP.
The documentation for both IEP team meetings indicates that at the beginning of the meetings the parent was advised of the rights to additional time and a copy of the evaluation report. The parent maintains that the rights statements were not given. The person responsible for conducting the meeting maintains the parent was advised of these rights at the beginning of each meeting. Other district staff interviewed during the investigation were not able to recall specifically either that the rights statement was or was not given. These staff did indicate that generally parents are advised of these rights at the beginning of IEP team meetings. The department concludes the district did advise the parent of these rights at the beginning of the October and November meetings.
- Whether the district included required participants in IEP team meetings.
The parent maintains the November meeting did not include a special education teacher qualified to address the students reading disability. Current state law requires that IEP teams include a special education teacher who has extensive and recent training and experience related to the child's known or suspected disability. The IEP team, which met in October, determined that the student continues to have a speech and language disability. The team concluded the student does not have a specific learning disability. The November IEP team included a licensed speech and language teacher. The district included the required special education teacher in the November meeting.
- Whether the district properly considered the parents concerns for enhancing the education of her child regarding reading;
- properly responded to the parents request for additional time to develop the IEP;
- provided the parent with required placement notices;
- properly determined that the student does not have a learning disability; and
- properly determined the amount of speech and language services to be provided to the child and whether the services would be provided one-to-one.
These issues all largely relate to the parents primary concern that the participants at the October and November IEP team meetings were not afforded sufficient time to reach consensus regarding the students eligibility for special education and the appropriate program to meet the students needs. The result of the October meeting was the determination that the student continues to have a speech and language disability, but does not have a specific learning disability. In reaching these determinations, the participants discussed recently administered test results and considered the students performance in school. The parent was an active participant in these discussions, which continued when another IEP team met in November to review and revise the students program. Interviews with district staff and with the parent confirm the district considered, at length, the parents concerns for enhancing the education of her child regarding reading.
The IEP, which was developed at the November meeting, did not include the reading assistance the parent sought. The parent maintains that during the November meeting she requested more time for the team to reach consensus. She maintains that at least one other IEP team participant was not in agreement with the decisions made during the meeting. Interviews with staff confirm the parents belief. The parent also maintains there was an extended discussion during the meeting regarding whether the student would receive 60 or 90 minutes of speech and language special education services. She maintains that the team decided that the student was to receive 90 minutes. The IEP developed at the meeting requires 60 minutes of speech and language service. The speech and language teacher provided the department with a written response to this issue of the complaint explaining how she remembers the decision was made. Interviews with other district staff who participated in the meeting indicate that, while there was extended discussion, it was not clear to them that a decision had been reached. The written response from the speech and language teacher indicates the student would receive 30 minutes of individual instruction and 30 minutes of small group instruction in the regular education classroom. The IEP does not reflect this information.
In developing a child's program, the IEP team must consider the student's individual needs and the parents' concerns for enhancing their child's education. The IEP team should work toward consensus, but the district has the ultimate responsibility to ensure that the IEP includes the services that the child needs in order to receive an appropriate program. If the team cannot reach consensus, the district must provide the parents with written notice of the district's proposals or refusals, and the parents have the right to seek resolution of any disagreements through mediation, through an IDEA complaint, or by initiating a due process hearing.
Since the November meeting, IEP teams for the student have met twice more. As a consequence of these meetings, the parent now believes the student is receiving the reading assistance she requires. State law requires a district to afford parents additional time in order to permit their meaningful participation. This provision requires ending an IEP team meeting and reconvening a meeting at a later date. It does not require extending a meeting already in progress. The district properly considered the parents concerns for enhancing the education of her child. The district also properly attempted to reach consensus regarding the students program during the November meeting. However, the notice of placement provided to the parent following this meeting does not indicate the district considered the parents request for reading assistance and the reasons the request was rejected. Further, the notice was provided to the parent at the end of the meeting, but the IEP developed at the meeting was not sent until several days later.
The district did not properly document its refusal to provide the reading assistance requested by the parent and did not provide the parent with a copy of the IEP when it provided the parent with a notice of placement, as required. In addition, the IEP does not properly document decisions about the amount of speech and language services to be provided and where they will be provided. No child specific corrective action is required, because the district has since revised the IEP twice and has sent two notices of placement. The district scheduled another IEP meeting to again consider including reading assistance in the students IEP, but the meeting had to be rescheduled. The district is attempting to set a date and time for the meeting. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district must submit proposed corrective action to the department to ensure that parents are properly notified of IEP team program determinations.
The parent also alleges the IEP team, which conducted the eligibility determination at the October meeting, did not properly determine whether the student has a specific learning disability. The parent maintains that several IEP team participants did not agree with the conclusion that the student does not have a specific learning disability. Interviews with district staff confirm the parents assertion, though the disagreement seems to be based on the belief the student needs additional support more than on whether eligibility criteria had been met. Further, several district staff did not properly certify whether the evaluation report reflects their conclusion regarding eligibility: two staff signed the certification form but did not indicate agreement or disagreement, while a third participant neither signed nor certified her agreement or disagreement.
The department reviewed the test results, evaluation report, specific learning disability checklist and reports submitted by IEP team participants. The district developed, and the IEP team considered, the information needed to determine whether the student is a child with a specific learning disability and, with one exception, properly documented its eligibility determination. The conclusion that the student does not have a specific learning disability is supported by information regarding the student which was gathered during the evaluation. However, the district did not properly document each district IEP team participants certification related to the eligibility determination. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district must provide the department, and properly notify the parent, of the certification of the three staff who did not certify their conclusion regarding the students eligibility as a student with a specific learning disability. If any staff indicate their disagreement with the conclusions, they also must submit a separate statement presenting their conclusions. The district also must submit a corrective action plan to the department to ensure that staff properly certify their conclusions as IEP team participants regarding specific learning disability eligibility determinations.
- Whether the district properly responded to requests for motor skills testing.
During the latter part of October 2005, the parent wrote to request testing for the student related to writing and hand coordination. District staff responded the next day that there was not sufficient time to conduct the testing in advance of the reevaluation meeting scheduled several days later. The parent reiterated her request for the testing during a meeting in December. The district has since completed the testing and is providing services determined to be appropriate. The district did not timely respond to the parents October request for testing. No child-specific corrective action is required because required services have been determined. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district must submit proposed corrective action to the department to ensure that it responds within a reasonable time to a parents request for testing.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST/SJP 3/15/06
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy