IDEA Complaint Decision 10-004

On January 19, 2010, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Milwaukee Public Schools. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2009-10 school year, properly afforded the parent the opportunity to participate in an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting.

On December 17, 2009, the district held an IEP team meeting, requested by the parent, to review and revise the student’s IEP and determine continuing placement. Neither of the student’s parents attended nor did they participate in the meeting by other means. The student’s parent had originally contacted the district to request an IEP team. On December 4, 2009, the student’s special education teacher contacted the student’s parent by phone and they agreed to hold the IEP team meeting on December 17 at 9:45 AM. On December 4, the district sent an IEP team invitation notice to the parents.

On December 8, the student’s parents sent an e-mail requesting a specific district staff member attend the December 17 IEP team meeting. On December 9, the district sent the parent a certified letter regarding the student’s truancy and requested a conference with the school social worker and principal. On December 14, the staff member responded to the parent’s e-mail confirming she would attend the IEP team meeting. On December 15 at 9:23 p.m., the student’s parent sent another e-mail to the district staff member. In the e-mail, the parent stated she did not see the point of conducting the IEP team meeting because of lack of communication and cooperation from the building principal.

On December 16, the day before the IEP team meeting, a teacher called one of the student’s parents to remind them about the IEP team meeting. The parent told the teacher the IEP team meeting was cancelled. The teacher responded she had not been informed the meeting was cancelled and would check with other district staff. The district decided it was important to conduct the IEP team meeting as scheduled, but did not contact the parent until a few minutes before the beginning of the meeting. The parent was then informed by telephone the meeting was being held as scheduled. There is no evidence the parent was informed during this telephone conversation she could participate by other means.

The district offered the parents an opportunity to provide input into scheduling the meeting and gave the parents timely notice of the meeting. The district made a number of phone, e-mail and mail contacts to the parents prior to the meeting date. The day before the meeting when the special education teacher called the parents, the parent notified the district she believed the IEP team meeting was cancelled. The district did not notify the parent the meeting would be conducted until minutes before the meeting. There is no evidence the parent was offered the opportunity to participate by telephone or other means on the morning of December 17.

Each public agency must ensure the IEP team reviews the student’s IEP at least annually. A district may review the student’s IEP more frequently if requested by the parent or if district staff believe such a review is needed to address the student’s needs. A school district must take steps to ensure 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 by other means. A meeting may be conducted without a parent in attendance if the public agency is unable to convince the parents they should attend or participate by other means. In this case, the public agency must keep a record of its attempts to arrange a mutually agreed on time. Although the district initially took steps to ensure one or both of the parents were present at the IEP team meeting, the district did not timely notify the parent or afford the parent the opportunity to participate by other means when the parent informed the district they believed the meeting was cancelled. A parent cannot unilaterally cancel an IEP team meeting, and the district can decide to continue with an IEP team meeting as scheduled. However, the district must still ensure the parent has an opportunity to participate. In this case, the district did not timely inform the parent the meeting would be conducted as scheduled and offer the parent an opportunity to attend or participate by telephone or other means. The district did not properly afford the student’s parents an opportunity to participate in the December 17 IEP team meeting.

The district must, within 30 days from the date of this decision, develop a corrective action plan to ensure all district special education staff, who schedule IEP team meetings, understand the requirement to ensure 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 by other means. Child specific corrective action is not required because an IEP team meeting for the child was held on January 22, 2010 which the parent attended.

All noncompliance identified above must be corrected as soon as possible, but in no case more than one year from the date of this decision. This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 3/9/10
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