Policy Letter from Stephanie Petska, 9/21/05

I am writing to respond to several questions posed by Kathy Laffin, former Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) 11 Regional Service Network Director, about children who reside in residential care centers (RCCs) and children who are receiving mental health day treatment services. I understand these questions were raised by special education leadership personnel. I will respond to each of her questions. With regard to students who reside in RCCs she asked:

1. Should the district continue to keep resident students who are placed in a residential care center on their general education enrollment list?

Enrollment is a factor reflected in the computation of state equalization aid as "membership." Membership is the number of students that can be counted for equalization aid. The purpose of state equalization aid is to equalize the tax burden on property owners across the state. The equalization formula operates under the principle of equal tax rate for equal pupil expenditures. Another factor used in the computation of state equalization aid for school districts is "shared cost." School districts report membership and shared cost to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Shared cost refers to school district expenditures to educate its membership.

Most RCC residents placed by a county or state agency attend the RCC's education program. They are not enrolled in school districts to attend classes. As prescribed by statute, the RCC-related education costs of children placed by counties and state agencies are borne by the placing agencies, not by school districts. Therefore, such children may not be included in membership used to compute school district state equalization aid. However, if a RCC resident is enrolled to attend class in the local school district, the local school district may claim state tuition categorical aid under s.121.79, Wis. Stats.

2. Should the district continue to keep resident students who are placed in a residential care center on their December 1 count?

The responsible local educational agency (LEA), defined at s.115.81(1)(b), Wis. Stats., must report their RCC resident children with disabilities in the December 1 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) child count. The responsible LEA has a duty to ensure the child is provided free appropriate public education (FAPE). Generally, the responsible LEA for a student with a disability placed by a county or state agency in a RCC is the school district responsible for FAPE prior to the child's placement in the RCC. However, if the child was placed in a RCC from a state-operated facility (Department of Corrections or Department of Health and Family Services), the school district where the RCC is located is the responsible LEA.

3. Should the district continue to follow the student through their IEP process while in the RCC?

The responsible LEA must:

  1. conduct an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting as soon as possible to revise the student's IEP to describe the appropriate special education services the student will receive while residing in the RCC and to develop an educational placement;
  2. appoint an IEP team to conduct a reevaluation as needed; and
  3. ensure each student receives a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. The county or state agency funding the child's RCC placement is responsible to pay for the RCC-related education costs.

4. How should the placement be written?

When a county or state agency places a child in a RCC for treatment, the student's IEP team must determine the child's educational placement. The LEA's placement notice should document the child has been placed in the RCC by the county or state agency for treatment. When determining the student's educational placement in the least restrictive environment, the IEP team must consider the student's treatment and security needs. If the IEP team determines the child may be appropriately educated off the grounds of the RCC, the responsible LEA must contact a school district to arrange for an educational placement.

When the school district is contacted by the child's responsible LEA, the district must assign staff to determine whether the child can appropriately receive required special education services in its schools. If they determine the child can appropriately receive special education services in their schools, the school district must provide the services and may be eligible for state tuition categorical aid. If the assigned staff determines the child cannot appropriately receive special education services in their schools, the LEA must keep a written record of the reasons. A dispute about the educational placement of a child will be resolved by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

5. A parent moves into a district and wants to enroll their (sic) child into the district, but the child currently lives in a RCC, and is anticipated to transition back into school. Must the district enroll the child when the parents register the child so the district can start working with the RCC on IEP and transition goals, or does the child need to physically return to the district before they can register?

6. Is the district allowed to not register this student as a new student?

If parents move from one LEA to another while their child resides in a RCC, the child's responsible LEA does not change. Generally, the responsible LEA for a student with a disability placed by a county or state agency in a RCC is the school district responsible for FAPE prior to the child's placement in the RCC. See question 2 above. Before a child with a disability leaves the RCC, the responsible LEA must assign an IEP team to develop a reintegration plan for the child in cooperation with the county and RCC staff. If upon leaving the RCC, the student will not be residing in the responsible LEA, the responsible LEA should include a representative of the school district where the child will reside in the development of the student's reintegration plan.

When the student moves out of the RCC into the new school district, the new school district becomes the student's LEA and responsible for the provision of FAPE. The district must follow the process for transfer students required in s.PI 11.07, Wis. Admin. Code, and discussed in Information Update Bulletin 00.10, Transfer Pupils with Disabilities. Also, note changes in procedures for transfer students are discussed in a May 2005 memorandum from Carolyn Stanford Taylor, IDEA 2004: Significant Changes in Special Education Law Effective July 1, 2005.

7. Is there any difference in procedure or enrollment count when the student is a student with a disability or without, since students without disabilities are sometimes placed in similar situations?

When a county or state agency informs the school district it will place a student who is not a child with a disability in a RCC, the school district must review the child's education records, develop a status report, and send a copy to the county or state agency within 30 days after the school district is informed of the impending placement. If there is reasonable cause to believe the student is a child with a disability, the school district must appoint an IEP team to evaluate the student. The IEP team may include appropriately licensed staff of the RCC, if available. If the student is found to be a child with a disability, the school district must develop an IEP and educational placement in consultation with the county or state agency. Also, when a child who is not a child with a disability is leaving a RCC, the responsible school district assigns staff, not an IEP team, to participate with RCC staff and county staff in developing a reintegration plan.

There are no differences between a child with a disability and a child with no disability in a RCC with regard to including the student in equalization aid membership. See the answer to question 1 above.

With regard to students who receive mental health day treatment services Ms. Laffin asked:

1. Should the district continue to keep resident students who are placed in day treatment on their general education enrollment list?

If a student receiving mental health day treatment services is enrolled to attend school district classes, the district may include the student in its equalization aid membership. In some instances, school districts do not provide the education for such students but have only incidental costs, e.g., monthly consultation with day treatment personnel, providing textbooks, assigning credits, attending IEP team meetings, or providing related services. Generally, such activities are insufficient to justify inclusion of these students in equalization aid membership.

2. Should the district continue to keep resident students who are placed in day treatment on their Dec. 1 count?

Resident children with disabilities who receive mental health day treatment services must be reported by their LEAs to DPI for the December 1 IDEA child count.

3. Should the district continue to follow the student through their (sic) IEP process while in the day treatment?

Generally, when a student is placed for mental health day treatment services, the school district in which the student resides is responsible for ensuring the child is provided FAPE. However, if a child with a disability receiving day treatment services has been placed by parents in an education program meeting the definition of a private school, the IDEA requirements relating to parentally-placed private school students apply. Also, if a child with a disability receiving day treatment services is enrolled in a home-based private education program, the child no longer has an individual entitlement to FAPE and IDEA provisions relating to parentally-placed private school students do not apply.

When a child is entitled to FAPE, the LEA must ensure the child has a current IEP. Special education services must be provided consistent with the IEP by qualified staff, at no cost to parents, and under public supervision and direction. The school district and the mental health day treatment program should coordinate the child's education and treatment. The district should conduct an IEP team meeting to review and revise the child's IEP when needed to ensure coordination of education and treatment.

4. How should the placement be written?

The student's IEP team must determine the child's educational placement in the least restrictive environment, taking into consideration the child's treatment and security needs. The LEA's placement notice should document the child was placed for mental health day treatment services by the parents or an agency. Prior to the IEP team meeting, the district should consult mental health day treatment personnel about the child's treatment and security needs. It is recommended a representative of the mental health day treatment program be included in the IEP team meeting, after obtaining the parent's consent to share information from school records with such personnel.

5. A parent moves into a district and wants to enroll their (sic) child into the district, but the child currently attends day treatment. The child lives at home, which is in the district, and is anticipated to transition back into school. Must the district enroll the child when the parents register the child so the district can start working with the day treatment on IEP and transition goals, or does the child need to physically return to the district before they can register?

6. Is the district allowed to not register this student as a new student?

Generally, when a child with a disability receiving mental health day treatment services moves into a new school district, the child is a transfer student to the school district. The new school district becomes the student's LEA and responsible for the provision of FAPE. The district must follow the process for transfer students required in s. PI 11.07, Wis. Admin. Code, and discussed in Information Update Bulletin 00.10, Transfer Pupils with Disabilities. Also, note changes in procedures for transfer students are discussed in a May 2005 memorandum from Carolyn Stanford Taylor, IDEA 2004: Significant Changes in Special Education Law Effective July 1, 2005.

7. Is there any difference in procedure or enrollment count when the student is a student with a disability or without, since students without disabilities are sometimes placed in similar situations?

There are no differences with regard to state equalization aid membership (enrollment). See the answer to question 1 above that discusses students who receive mental health day treatment services.

\\signed 9/21/05
Stephanie J. Petska, Ph.D., Director
Special Education