IDEA Complaint Decision 06-057

On December 13, 2006, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Marinette School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district properly responded to a parent’s request in November and December 2006 to have an advocate observe her child in class.

On November 16, 2006, the parent requested that the district allow an advocate to observe the student’s current programming in preparation for the advocate’s participation in the development of the student’s annual individualized education program (IEP) team meeting. The parent requested that the advocate observe the student for two days in the classroom as well as in the provision of other special education services held outside of the classroom. The parent explained that the advocate’s observations and interactions would be limited to the student in question.

On December 8, 2006, the district provided the parent a written request for the release of information. A copy of the school visitor policy was also attached. The release of information was signed by the parent on December 19, 2006. On January 5, 2007, the district contacted the advocate by e-mail with an attached confidentiality agreement for her signature. The district indicated that upon receipt of the signed confidentiality agreement, an observation of the child could be scheduled. As of the date of this decision, the confidentiality agreement has not been signed and returned to the district.

State law authorizes districts to determine criteria for school visitation. State and federal special education law permits parents to be accompanied by an advocate during IEP team meetings. State and federal law does not require a district to permit observations in a student’s classroom. The complainant’s stated purpose was for the advocate’s observation of the student’s current programming to prepare the advocate for participation in the development of the student’s annual IEP. The district’s board policy for school visitors indicates that "nonstaff access to students and classes must be limited and only in accordance with a schedule which has been determined by the principal after consultation with the teacher whose classroom is being visited. Classroom visitations must be nonobtrusive to the educative process and learning environment and should not occur on an excessive basis." The district was within its authority to require the documents it requested. The district properly responded to a parent’s request in November and December 2006 to have an advocate observe her child in class.

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

//signed 1/23/07
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

Dec/tg

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