On December 19, 2006, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC). This is the departments decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the DOC:
- Properly responded to a teachers referral in October 2006 for a special education evaluation of a student;
- Has established written procedures for accepting and processing referrals; and
- At least annually informs staff required to make referrals about the agencys referral and evaluation procedures.
The student had previously been identified as a student with a disability in the area of cognitive disabilities in the year 2000 and had received special education services until 2002. In 2002 the student was reevaluated and determined no longer to be eligible for special education. The student was again referred for a special education evaluation at DOC and the individualized education program (IEP) team found the student not to be a student with a disability in April 2006. In October 2006, a teacher at DOC referred the student for a special education evaluation in the areas of cognitive disabilities, emotional behavioral disabilities, specific learning disabilities, and speech and language disabilities.
The agency did not proceed with the October 2006 referral stating the referral was a request for a reevaluation of the student. Notations on the referral form refer to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004 provisions limiting the number of reevaluations to not more than once a year, unless the parent and the agency agree otherwise.
However, at the time of the referral, the student was not a student with a disability thereby making this an initial referral not a reevaluation. State special education law does not allow an agency to refuse a referral for an initial evaluation. State law provides that a person, who is employed by a local educational agency and who reasonably believes a student has a disability, is required to refer that student to the local educational agency. This referral must be in writing and the parent must be contacted giving notice of the intent to refer the student prior to the submission of the referral. The department concludes that the agency did not properly respond to a teachers referral in September 2006 for an initial special education evaluation of a student.
The complainant also alleges that the agency did not have written procedures for accepting and processing referrals and did not provide annual training to all required agency staff. Any teacher, physician, nurse, psychologist, social worker or administrator of an agency who reasonably believes that a student brought to him or her for services has a disability is required to refer the student to the agency. An agency must establish written procedures for accepting and processing referrals. In addition, at least annually the agency must inform required staff about how to make referrals.
The agency sent a written set of procedures developed in 2004 for accepting and processing referrals to the department. State law relating to procedures for processing referrals was amended effective July 2006. Documentation provided by the agency stated that the topic of special education referrals was discussed five times during faculty and special education meetings throughout 2006 as well as a presentation to staff on referral forms during the summer of 2006. Followup interviews with a variety of staff indicated that not all required school staff had been annually informed about how to make referrals and the existence and location of the agencys policies and procedures for accepting and processing referrals. The department finds that while the agency has written procedures and informs some staff at least annually, not all agency staff required to make referrals have been informed of these procedures on an annual basis.
Within 15 days of the date of this decision, the agency must initiate an evaluation of this student. The IEP team needs to consider additional education of the student if determined to be a child with a disability. The agency must complete the evaluation in a timely manner and inform the department of the results.
Within thirty days, the agency director of special education will submit a corrective action plan for approval to the department regarding the following issues:
- The agency must review the current policies and procedures for accepting and processing special education referrals so they are current with the state law. These policies and procedures must be submitted to the department for review.
- All required staff will be trained on those updated policies and procedures describing accepting and processing special education referrals within sixty days after the department notifies DOC the policies and procedures are acceptable. The agency will also require signed participant lists to ensure all current staff have received this information.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy