IDEA Complaint Decision 08-086

On November 3, 2008, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from xxxxx against the Whitnall School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2008-2009 school year, properly afforded the parent the opportunity to participate in an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting and properly provided the parent a copy of the procedural safeguards notice.

On September 10, 2008, an invitation to an IEP team meeting scheduled for September 23, 2008, was sent to the father of a student with a disability and to the student. The invitation did not include the mother’s name and the mother alleged in her complaint she did not receive an invitation.

The IEP team meeting was held on September 23, 2008, with the father and the student in attendance. The cover sheet of the IEP erroneously lists the date of the meeting as September 28, 2008. In the section that is to be completed if the parent did not attend or participate in the meeting by other means, it states the “IEP was discussed with [the student’s] mother... on September 25, 2008.” The invitation did not include the mother’s name.

In the complaint the mother filed, she stated she met with the student’s teacher on September 25, 2008, and was under the impression this was to be an IEP team meeting based upon an email sent to her by the teacher. The email from the teacher stated “Would you be available around 11:00 on Thursday, September 25 to review [the student’s] IEP? I have his dad scheduled to come in on the 23rd...."

If the parents are separated or divorced, both parents retain parental rights under special education law, unless a court order provides otherwise. Each school district must take steps to ensure that one or both of the parents of a child with a disability are present at each IEP team meeting or are afforded the opportunity to participate, including a notice to indicate the purpose, time, and location of the meeting and who will be in attendance. Both the mother and the father of the student share education decision-making authority for their son. Consequently, a school district must ensure both parents are afforded an opportunity to participate in IEP team meetings. This includes providing notice to both parents early enough to ensure they will have an opportunity to attend.

While proper notice of the September 23, 2008, IEP team meeting was given to the father, the mother did not receive proper notice of the IEP team meeting held on September 23, 2008. The department concludes the district did not properly afford the mother the opportunity to participate in an IEP team meeting.

The district subsequently held another IEP team meeting on October 14, 2008, for the purpose of reviewing and revising the IEP, developing an IEP, developing a statement of transition goals and services, and graduation review. Both parents and the student participated in the meeting.

In the complaint, the mother also alleged she did not receive a copy of the procedural safeguards brochure when she met with the teacher on September 25, 2008. A copy of the procedural safeguards notice must be given to the parents only one time a school year, except that a copy also must be given to the parents upon initial referral or parent request for evaluation; upon receipt of the first State complaint; upon receipt of the first due process complaint in a school year; in accordance with the discipline procedures and upon request by a parent. The mother requested a copy of the procedural safeguards and received it on October 13, 2008. The district properly provided the parent a copy of the procedural safeguards notice.

Within thirty days of the date of this decision, the district will submit a corrective action plan (CAP) to the department for approval. The CAP must ensure district staff understand how to properly afford a parent the opportunity to participate in an IEP team meeting, including when the parents are separated or divorced.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST/SJP 12/10/08
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