IDEA Complaint Decision 12-044

On September 4, 2012, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Merton Community School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2011-12 school year provided a free and appropriate public education to a student with a disability, and during the period between June 5 and August 30, 2012:

  • Properly provided additional time to permit meaningful parent participation,
  • Properly afforded the parents the opportunity to participate in the individualized education program (IEP) team meeting, including scheduling the IEP team meeting at a mutually agreed on time,
  • Properly determined placement through an IEP team meeting, and
  • Properly developed an IEP for a student with a disability.

Every child who is eligible for special education must receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), and the IEP developed must be reasonably calculated to enable the student to receive an educational benefit. During the 2011-12 school year, the district had an IEP in place for the student. The IEP included a statement of the student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, including how the student’s disability affected the student’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum; measurable annual goals designed to meet the student’s disability-related needs to enable the student to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; a description of how progress toward meeting annual goals was to be measured; and when periodic reports on the progress would be provided to the parent. The IEP included a statement of the special education, related services, supplementary aids and services, and program modifications or supports for school staff based on the student’s unique needs and an explanation of the extent to which the student will not participate with nondisabled peers in the regular class and other school activities.

In developing the student’s IEP, the IEP team considered the strengths of the child, the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of the child, the results of the most recent evaluation of the child, and the academic, developmental, and functional needs of the child. The IEP team considered special factors, which included the communication needs of the child. At the meetings, the team considered the child’s strengths, including learning strengths through movement, sensory and tactile experiences, and exploration. The team documented the parent’s concerns regarding the student’s development and communication skills, among other concerns. When the IEP team considered special factors, the team identified the student’s behavior and communication needs, and the team established positive behavior interventions, strategies, and supports to address the behavior, and specially designed instruction in the area of speech sound production for the student. The IEP team made the placement determination and determined continued placement in four-year-old kindergarten through the end of the 2011-12 school year would meet the student’s unique needs. The IEP developed was reasonably calculated to allow the student to receive an educational benefit. Through the district’s documentation and staff interviews, the IEP team demonstrated it meaningfully considered all requests made by the parents, properly developed the student’s IEP, properly determined placement, and implemented the IEP as written. The district provided the student FAPE during the 2011-12 school year.

The IEP team met again on August 20 and 22, 2012, to review and revise the student’s IEP, and to determine placement for the 2012-13 school year. The parent was in attendance. At the August 22 meeting, the parent requested additional time and requested partial day, five-year-old kindergarten. Thereafter, the district attempted to accommodate the parent and schedule another meeting for August 29, at a time convenient for the parent. The district documented three attempts to schedule the August 29 meeting, including emailing the notice and hand-delivering the notice twice to the parents. The district received a letter from the parents’ legal counsel on the morning of August 29, which stated the parents would not be able to participate in the meeting and requested another meeting date the following week, which was after the start of the school year. The IEP team meeting was held, as scheduled, two hours after the receipt of the letter from the parents’ legal counsel on August 29, 2012, and the parent did not attend. The parent alleges he requested, but did not receive, additional time to permit meaningful participation at the August 29, 2012, meeting. Prior to completing the IEP, the parent chose to withdraw the student from the district and elected to provide a home-based private education program (home schooling).

The local educational agency must provide additional time if the parents of the student or the district staff determines at any meeting during the process of the evaluation, development of the IEP, or placement of the student that additional time is needed to permit their meaningful participation. A district must take steps to ensure one or both of the parents of a child are present at an IEP team meeting or are afforded the opportunity to participate. The district must notify the parents of the meeting early enough to ensure they have an opportunity to attend and must schedule the meeting at a mutually agreed on time and place. If the child’s parents are not able to attend, the district must use other methods to ensure parent participation.

The district did not extend the process any further beyond August 29, 2012, because the district was required to have an appropriate IEP, including an appropriate placement, in place for the first day of the school year, which was September 4, 2012. The district attempted to provide additional time by scheduling another IEP team meeting and making reasonable attempts to notify the parent, but the parent did not respond until the day of the meeting. The district, however, was unable to delay any further because of the start of the new school year. The department concludes the district notified the parents of the IEP team meetings, scheduled the meetings at a mutually agreeable time, and reasonably responded to the parent’s request to provide additional time.

The parent also states the district did not properly develop the student’s IEP, and the district predetermined the student’s placement. Over the course of the three IEP team meetings in August, the IEP team reviewed and revised the student’s IEP, determined continued eligibility for special education, and determined the student’s placement. The IEP team considered and included a statement of the student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, including a statement regarding how the student’s disability affected the student’s involvement and progress in the general curriculum. The team considered the child’s strengths, the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of the child, the results of the most recent evaluation of the child, and the academic, developmental, and functional needs of the child. The IEP team considered special factors, which included the communication needs of the child. When the IEP team considered special factors, the team identified the student’s communication needs, and the team established specially designed instruction in the area of speech sound production for the student. At the meetings, the team considered the child’s strengths, including gross motor skills, matching skills, and inquisitiveness. The team documented the parent’s concerns regarding the student’s goals, progress toward goals, environment, special education and related services, expressive language, speech therapy, schedule, safety, attention, and fine motor skills, among other things. The team considered the results of the student’s most recent evaluation. Further, the team considered the child’s academic, developmental, and functional needs. The IEP team developed measurable annual goals regarding social skills, behavior, academic skills, self-regulation and attending skills, fine motor skills, receptive language skills, expressive language skills, and self-help skills. The goals were designed to meet the student’s disability-related needs to enable the student to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum. The IEP team described how progress toward meeting annual goals will be measured, and when periodic reports on the progress would be provided to the parent. The IEP included a statement of the special education, related services, supplementary aids and services, and program modifications or supports for school staff based on the student’s unique needs. Further, the IEP explained the extent to which the student would not participate with nondisabled peers in the regular class and other school activities. Through the district’s documentation and staff interviews, the IEP team demonstrated it meaningfully considered all requests made by the parents and properly developed the student’s IEP. Prior to the IEP’s completion, the parent withdrew the student from the district and elected to provide a home-based private education program.

In Wisconsin, an IEP team must determine the special education placement for a child with a disability. The placement decision must be made based on the child’s IEP and individualized needs. Each school district must ensure that to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who are nondisabled; and removal from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. On August 29, the IEP team determined full day, five-year-old kindergarten to be the appropriate placement. Through the district’s documentation and staff interviews, the IEP team demonstrated it meaningfully considered all requests made by the parents, and did not predetermine the student’s placement. The IEP team properly determined placement through an IEP team meeting.

This concludes our review of this complaint, which we are closing. You may contact Allison Markoski, Special Education Team, at (608) 266-3126 if you have any questions about this decision or for technical assistance.

//signed CST 10/29/2012
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support

Dec/amm

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