On May 20, 2013, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against XXXXX. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2012-13 school year, properly responded to written referrals for special education evaluations.
School districts are required under state and federal special education law to locate, identify, and evaluate all resident students with disabilities who have not graduated from high school with a regular high school diploma. Licensed staff members employed by the district who reasonably believe a child has a disability must refer the child after notifying the parent of the intent to refer. Each district must establish procedures for accepting and processing referrals. Districts may use building consultation teams and regular education interventions prior to referrals. However, pre-referral activities may not delay or disrupt the district’s accepting and processing of referrals. District procedures cannot require a referring person to obtain the permission, approval, or agreement of others before the district accepts a referral. All referrals must be in writing and the district must accept and process all referrals submitted to the district. Upon receipt of a referral, the district must appoint an individualized education program (IEP) team, and the IEP team must conduct a review of existing data to determine what additional data, if any, are needed to complete the evaluation. The student’s parent must be afforded an opportunity to participate in this review. In addition, this review must include not less than one regular education teacher of the child, one special education teacher who has recent training or experience related to the child’s known or suspected area of special education needs, and a district representative. It is not required that the review of existing data occur through an IEP team meeting. Within
15 business days of receiving the referral, the district must send to the student’s parent a request for consent for additional testing or notice that no additional testing is necessary. An IEP team meeting must be conducted to determine eligibility within 60 days after receiving parental consent for evaluation or notifying parents that no additional assessments are needed.
The district has established procedures for accepting and processing referrals, and staff are trained on how to use the electronic system and submit documents to the district’s special education department. The written procedures require staff to use the “Student Support Team (SST)” process prior to making a special education referral unless the parent is requesting an immediate referral. The SST process is described as the district’s early and ongoing collaboration and pre-referral intervention process. Interviews indicate staff members believe they must hold an SST meeting before a teacher or other licensed staff can refer a student for a special education evaluation. Staff also indicated they must get approval from a designated building level staff person. The SST pre-referral intervention process may not delay or disrupt the district’s accepting and processing of referrals. The district’s procedures cannot require a referring person to obtain the permission, approval, or agreement of others or a SST meeting before the district accepts a referral for a special education evaluation.
With regard to individual students, the district received a written special education referral from student A’s parent on September 7, 2012. On September 11, 2012, a teacher completed the district’s electronic Referral For Initial Evaluation form and a district social worker contacted the parent by phone. On September 20, 2012, the principal signed the Referral For Initial Evaluation and a Notice of Receipt of Referral was sent to student A’s parent. The date of receipt of referral is recorded as September 20. However, the parent’s written referral was received on September 7. The date of receipt of referral is the date district staff receive the written referral not the date the building principal or other designated staff sign the referral. Required district staff reviewed existing data on October 2, 8, and 9. On October 9, the parent participated, in person, in the review of existing data, received the Notice and Consent for Initial IEP Evaluation: Additional Assessment Needed and gave written consent. The request for consent was not made within the required time frame. On December 4, 2012, the district conducted an IEP team meeting to determine eligibility, develop an initial IEP, and determine placement. The IEP team meeting was conducted within 60 days after receiving parental consent for evaluation. The district did not properly respond to the September 7, 2012, request for a special education evaluation because of the delay in reviewing existing data and requesting consent for additional testing. The district must consider compensatory services for student A because of this delay by holding an IEP team meeting or with the agreement of the student’s parent either develop a written document to amend or modify the student’s IEP to reflect the compensatory services or discuss with the student’s parent and document agreement that no compensatory services are necessary. By August 12, 2013, the district must send to the department a copy of the documentation of the consideration of compensatory service.
On January 25 and February 5, 2013, a teacher gave written special education evaluation referrals for student B to the building principal. The district did not proceed with a special education evaluation for student B. The district did not properly respond to the January 25 and February 5, 2013, requests for a special education evaluation for student B. As corrective action, the LEA must conduct an expedited special education evaluation, and if it is determined that the student is eligible for special education, consider whether compensatory services are required because of the delay in the evaluation. By September 6, 2013, the district must send to the department evaluation materials and, if found eligible, a copy of the IEP documenting consideration of compensatory services.
In addition to the student-specific corrective action noted above, within thirty days of the date of this decision, the district must submit a corrective plan to ensure that special education referrals are properly responded to and evaluations are timely completed. The plan must provide for revision of the written procedures to ensure referrals are not delayed or prevented through the SST process, district-wide distribution of the revised procedures, and staff development. This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 7/10/2013
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support