IDEA Complaint Decision 06-019

On April 12, 2006, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). This is the department’s decision for that complaint. The issue is whether district ensured staff referred a student for a special education evaluation in a timely manner.

The student is a regular education student who was attending an MPS partnership school. Partnership schools are private schools which MPS contracts with to provide educational services to regular and special education students assigned to the schools by the district. The student was involved in a behavioral incident and his expulsion was recommended. On May 11, 2005, the student services coordinator conducted the student’s preliminary expulsion hearing. The written and verbal reports from staff at the hearing did not indicate that staff believed the student may have a disability. The parent asked the student services coordinator during the hearing for help with her child. This request was too generalized to suggest that the parent suspected a disability or was requesting a referral for a special education evaluation. The student services coordinator did not have reason to believe the student may have a disability and did not fail to timely refer the student for an evaluation.

On May 25, 2005, the student was expelled from the partnership school. The district was not required to continue providing educational services during the expulsion, but did continue to do so by assigning the student to a second partnership school. Between September 1, 2005, and January 6, 2006, the student attended the second MPS partnership school. On January 6, 2006, the student was involved in a behavioral incident. The district removed the student from the second partnership school and continued his expulsion without services. Staff from both MPS partnership schools stated during this investigation that they had no reason to believe the student may be a child with a disability. Staff based their professional opinions on specific information about this student. Staff were familiar with the special education referral process and indicators of disability. The student’s mother did not request that her son be evaluated for special education services when he attended either MPS partnership school. District staff familiar with the student did not have reason to believe the student may have a disability and did not fail to timely refer the student for an evaluation.

On April 6, 2006, the student’s mother made a referral to have the student evaluated for special education at the high school closest to her home. An individualized education program (IEP) team meeting was scheduled to be held May 25, 2006, to determine whether the child is a child with a disability. When a district receives a referral for a child, it must appoint an IEP team to evaluate the child. Under current state law, 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 responded properly to the parent’s April request. There is no basis to conclude that the district failed to ensure the student was referred for an evaluation in a timely manner.

This concludes our review of this complaint, which we are closing.

//signed CST 5/31/06
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

Dec/jfd

For questions about this information, contact Patricia Williams (608) 267-3720