IDEA Complaint Decision 12-019

On April 24, 2012, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2011-12 school year properly determined placement for a student with a disability and properly implemented the student’s individualized education program (IEP).

When a child with a disability who has an IEP in effect transfers from another district, the new school district must provide a free appropriate public education, which includes the provision of services comparable to those described in the student’s IEP from the previous school district. This must be done in consultation with the parents and until such time as the district conducts an evaluation, if determined to be necessary, and/or develops and implements a new IEP, if appropriate. The district may also choose to adopt the IEP from the previous school district. The district must take reasonable steps to promptly obtain the child’s records. These requirements are to ensure there is no interruption of the provision of special education and related services.

At the start of the 2011-12 school year, the parent and student with a disability informed district staff that the student had special education needs. The parent provided staff at the district central office a copy of the student’s IEP from another Wisconsin district. The student’s November 10, 2010, IEP states; “(Student’s name) gets academically lost in a large classroom that is not highly structured. He works best in small groups, with tasks broken down into smaller steps.” On January 18, 2011, the transferring Wisconsin school district had placed the student in an alternative education program.

On September 7, 2011, the student with a disability was assigned to a large comprehensive high school, outside of his attendance area, by an MPS district Department of Family Services staff member. The district student assignment form includes the statement, “eligible for transportation”. On September 7, the student was admitted to the assigned MPS high school and placed in regular education classes. On or about September 19, the student’s parent communicated with district staff at the high school expressing her concern about her son’s placement and stated she would be keeping her son home until the placement was changed. The high school social worker followed up with the parent on numerous occasions regarding the student’s attendance and transportation to and from school.

On or about September 27, 2011, a DPI consultant and the parent discussed with an MPS Regional Coordinator of Special Education the parent’s concerns regarding the student’s special education needs, placement, and transportation. On or about September 28, an MPS high school staff member contacted the transferring Wisconsin district to learn about the alternative education program in which the student was previously placed. On October 18, 2011, an IEP team meeting was held for the purpose of reviewing and revising the student’s IEP, developing a transition plan and determining placement. The student’s placement was changed to a partial day program with special education services in the areas of reading and written language 48 minutes once a day in the regular education classroom and specialized instruction in math 48 minutes once a day in the regular education classroom. On October 31, 2011, an IEP team meeting was held for the purpose of reviewing and revising the student’s IEP, developing a transition plan and determining placement. The only change from the October 18 IEP was the addition of an attendance goal for the student. On November 3, the student’s IEP was changed without an IEP team meeting to add the related service of transportation service in the morning only.

In April 2012, the student’s parent contacted DPI with concerns about her son’s continued placement at the large comprehensive high school upon his return from a short term residential placement. In response to the parent’s request, an IEP team meeting was not held until May 18, 2012. The student and his mother participated by telephone with a parent advocate in attendance at the meeting. The student’s placement was changed to a small class environment half day program in a small partnership school. Between September 13, 2011, and May 30, 2012, the high school social worker followed up with the parent on numerous occasions regarding the student’s attendance and transportation to and from school.

When the student transferred from another district, MPS did not provide a free appropriate public education, including services comparable to those described in the student’s IEP from the previous school district. The student’s September 7, 2011, placement in the district was not properly determined. The student’s special education and related services were interrupted, and the student’s IEP was not implemented between September 7 and October 18, 2011. In addition, the student’s IEP was not implemented between November 3, 2011, and April 24, 2012, the date this complaint was received, when the related service of transportation was not provided. In April 2012, when the student’s parent contacted the district with concerns about her son’s continued placement at the large comprehensive high school upon his return from a short term residential placement the district did not schedule an IEP team meeting until after the parent filed this complaint. The district did not timely conduct an IEP team meeting. On May 18, 2012, the district properly determined placement for the student.

By July 27, 2012, the district must conduct an IEP team meeting to determine what compensatory services the student should receive due to the district not properly and timely determining placement and not properly implementing the student’s IEP. By August 10, 2012, the district must provide the department a copy of the IEP developed and the IEP team’s decision regarding compensatory services clearly documented.

The district is in the process of implementing a previously developed corrective action plan to ensure staff understand the requirements to properly determine placement. This corrective action plan includes the required revision of district placement procedures which must be submitted to DPI for review and approval. By July 27, the district must submit a proposed corrective action to ensure IEPs for students who transfer to the district are reviewed and services provided comparable to those described in the student’s IEP from the previous school district. This must be done in consultation with the parents and until such time as the district conducts an evaluation, if determined to be necessary, and/or develops and implements a new IEP, if appropriate.

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. You may contact Janice Duff, Special Education Team, at (414) 227-1845 if you have any questions about this decision or for technical assistance.

//signed CST 6/25/2012
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support

Dec/jfd

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