IDEA Complaint Decision 00-035

On May 8, 2000 (letter dated April 11, 2000), a complaint was filed with the Department of Public Instruction by XXXXX against the Clear Lake School District. This complaint alleges a violation of special education law regarding the implementation of programs for children with disabilities.

Pursuant to 34 CFR 300.660-662 of the regulations implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and 115.762(3)(g) and 115.90(1), Wis. Stats., the Department of Public Instruction investigated this complaint. In investigating a complaint, the department reviews a district's compliance with state and federal requirements. In investigating this complaint, department staff reviewed correspondence from the parent and the school district's director of special education and special education teachers and reviewed relevant pupil records from the parent and the district. Department staff also had discussions with the parent, the director of special education and the student's special education teachers.

===========================

ISSUE #1:

the district fail to provide the student with positive reinforcement as described in May 18, 1999, and April 17, 2000, behavior intervention plans?

ISSUE #2:

the district fail to provide the student with copied notes as described in the supplementary aids and services section of his IEPs for the 1999-2000 school year?

ISSUE #3:

the district improperly hire a special education teacher who was not licensed to provide services to the student during the 1999-2000 school year?

ISSUE #4:

the district fail to implement short-term objectives in the student's 1999-2000 IEP, relating to the annual goal dealing with the student's goals for life after secondary school?

ISSUE #5:

the district fail to individualize the student's IEPs, as they were copied from year-to-year?

ISSUE #6:

the district fail to include the parent as an equal participant in the development of her son's IEPs for the 1999-2000 school year, as the special education services and placement were predetermined by district staff and presented to the parent at the IEP team meetings?

APPLICABLE STATUTES AND RULES:

Section 115.28, Wisconsin Statutes
General Duties.

The state superintendent shall:

* * *

(7) LICENSING AND CERTIFICATION OF TEACHERS, ETC.
(a) License all teachers for the public schools of the state, * * *

* * *

Section 115.76, Wisconsin Statutes
Definitions.

In this subchapter:

* * *

(7) "Free appropriate public education" means special education and related services that are provided at public expense and under public supervision and direction, meet the standards of the department, include an appropriate preschool, elementary or secondary school education and are provided in conformity with an individualized education program.

* * *

Section 115.77, Wisconsin Statutes
Local educational agency duties.

* * *

(1m) A local educational agency shall demonstrate to the satisfaction of the division that it does all of the following:

* * *

(b) Makes available a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities as required by this subchapter and applicable state and federal law.

* * *

Section 115.78, Wisconsin Statutes
Individualized education program team; timeline.

* * *

(lm) APPOINTMENT OF TEAM. The local educational agency shall appoint an individualized education program team for each child referred to it under 115.777. Each team shall consist of all of the following:
(a) The parent of the child.

* * *

(2) DUTIES OF TEAM. The individualized education program team shall do all of the following:
(a) Evaluate the child under 115.782 to determine the child's eligibility or continued eligibility for special education and related services and the educational needs of the child.
(b) Develop an individualized education program for the child under 115.787.
(c) Determine the special education placement for the child under 115.79.

* * *

Section 115.787, Wisconsin Statutes
Individualized education programs.

* * *

(2) REQUIRED COMPONENTS. An individualized education program shall include all of the following:

* * *

(b) A statement of measurable annual goals for the child, including benchmarks or short-term objectives, related to meeting the child's needs that result from the child's disability to enable the child to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum, and to meeting each of the child's other educational needs that result from the child's disability.
(c) A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child,¿* * *

* * *

(f) The projected date for the beginning of the services and modifications described in par. (c) and the anticipated frequency, location and duration of those services and modifications.

* * *

Section 118.19, Wisconsin Statutes
Teacher certificates and licenses.

(1) Any person seeking to teach in a public school, including a charter school, or in a school or institution operated by a county or the state shall first procure a license or permit from the department.

* * *

Section 121.02, Wisconsin Statutes
School district standards.

(1) Except as provided in 118.40 (2r)(d), each school board shall: (a) 1. Ensure that every teacher, supervisor, administrator and professional staff member holds a certificate, license or permit to teach issued by the department before entering on duties for such position.

* * *

Section PI 3.01, Wisconsin Administrative Code
Definitions.

In this chapter:

* * *

(22) "License" means a document issued under this chapter granting authority or permission to serve as a professional school employe in Wisconsin public schools.

* * *

(36) "Special education" means the education of pupils with disabilities because of * * * learning disability,¿* * *

* * *

(41) "Substitute teacher" means a licensed teacher who occupies temporarily the position of an absent teacher.

* * *

34 CFR 300.342 When IEPs must be in effect.

* * *

(a) General. At the beginning of each school year, each public agency shall have an IEP in effect for each child with a disability within its jurisdiction.
(b) Implementation of IEPs. Each public agency shall ensure that--
(1) An IEP--
(i) Is in effect before special education and related services are provided to an eligible child under this part; and
(ii) Is implemented as soon as possible following the meetings described under 300.343.

* * *

(3) Each teacher and provider described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section is informed of--
(i) His or her specific responsibilities related to implementing the child's IEP; and
(ii) The specific accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided for the child in accordance with the IEP.

* * *

34 CFR 300.345 Parent participation.

(a) Public agency responsibility--general. Each public agency shall take steps to ensure that one or both of the parents of a child with a disability are present at each IEP meeting or are afforded the opportunity to participate,¿* * *

* * *

ADMINISTRATIVE AND JUDICIAL INTERPRETATIONS:

34 CFR Part 300, Appendix A, Questions 5, 3,1 and 35.

5. What is the role of parents, including surrogate parents, in decisions regarding the educational programs of their children?

The parents of a child with a disability are expected to be equal participants along with school personnel, in developing, reviewing and revising the IEP for their child.

31. Must the public agency ensure that all the services specified in a child's IEP are provided?

Yes. The public agency must ensure that all services set forth in the child's IEP are provided, consistent with the child's needs as identified in the IEP.* * *

35. Must the IEP specify the amount of services or may it simply list the services to be provided?

The amount of services to be provided must be stated in the IEP, so that the level of the agency's commitment of resources will be clear to parents and other IEP team members. The amount of time to be committed to each of the various services to be provided must be (1) appropriate to the specific service, and (2) stated in the IEP in a manner that is clear to all who are involved in both the development and implementation of the IEP.

FINDINGS OF FACT:

The student whose education is the subject of this complaint received special education services in the Clear Lake School District during the 1999-2000 school year. The district conducted IEP team meetings on May 18 and September 27, 1999; April 11 and 18, 2000, to review/revise the student's IEP, to determine student's transition services, and to determine the student's placement. On March 15, 2000, an IEP team conducted a manifestation determination review of the student's behavior and determined that the student should be placed in an interim alternative educational setting. The parent attended all of the above-mentioned IEP team meetings. On April 3, 2000, the student was expelled from the Clear Lake School District for carrying a weapon to school. The student received educational services in an alternative off-campus setting during part of the 1999-2000 school year.

The complainant alleges that the district failed to include her as an equal participant in the development of her son's IEPs for the 1999-2000 school year, as the special education services and placement were predetermined by district staff and presented to her at the IEP team meetings. The district conducted a series of IEP team meetings during the 1999-2000 school year. The parent attended all of the IEP team meetings and her son attended two of the meetings. In the 1998-99 school year, a series of special education mediation sessions were attempted to help resolve a similar dispute. Documentation shows that district staff made a good-faith effort to get the parent to participate actively in the IEP team meetings. The program support teacher tried to meet with the parent prior to the IEP team meetings to emphasize that the district wanted to work with her and the importance of her input. The program support teacher also went to the parent's place of employment to try to convince her that her input was valuable and to discuss any issues that the parent might have. These attempts were unsuccessful. The parent attended the IEP team meetings, but chose not to participate actively.

The complainant further alleges that the district failed to provide her son with positive reinforcement as described in his May 18, 1999, and April 17, 2000, behavior intervention plans. The student's May 18, 1999, behavior intervention plan states that "given modifications for academic needs, positive reinforcement, and positive experiences, (student) will increase his attendance to at least 90% during first semester of the 1999-2000 school year." The student's April 17, 2000, behavior intervention plan states that "given modifications for academic needs, positive reinforcement, and positive experiences, (student) will increase his attendance." When the student was in the high school setting, he was given positive reinforcement in his classes when he earned it for doing well academically and socially. Some of the positive reinforcement the student received was computer time and free time during class to participate in social activities. The student was also given verbal positive reinforcement from his teachers throughout the school year with the hope of encouraging him to be successful in school. On March 15, 2000, the student was placed in an interim alternative educational setting. His teacher in the alternative setting indicates in his weekly reports that the positive interest and encouragement shown the student was translated into improved daily attendance, work attitude, and grades.

Another allegation by the complainant is that district failed to provide the student with copied notes as described in the supplementary aids and services section of his IEP for the 1999-2000 school year. A copy of the student's IEP for the 1999-2000 school year indicates that the student should receive the following supplementary aids and services and supports: "(Student) will have notes copied." The description of this service in the student's IEP varied during the 1999-2000 school year. The student's May 18, 1999, IEP indicates that the student will have notes copied "For some assignments and tests when given." The student's IEP does not indicate the frequency the notes will be copied and does not specify the assignments and tests notes that will be copied. The student's September 27, 1999, IEP indicates that the student will have notes copied "For some assignments and tests when given as needed when student has difficulty with assignment or needs additional time." The student's IEP does specify the circumstances under which the support services are needed and the notes will be copied. The student's March 15, April 11 and 18, 2000, IEPs indicate that the student will have notes copied "Daily when in interim alternative educational setting 3 days per week." The student's IEP indicates the frequency, but does not specify the notes that will be copied.

The complainant further alleges that the district improperly hired a special education teacher who was not licensed to provide services to the student during the 1999-2000 school year. The district hired an alternative site teacher to provide one-on-one services to the complainant's son. The teacher was granted a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction one-year special license as a substitute teacher in area of learning disabilities in accordance with state licensing requirements. The license was issued on July 1, 1999, and it expired on June 30, 2000.

The complainant also alleges that the district failed to implement short-term objectives in the student's 1999-2000 IEP, relating to the annual goal dealing with the student's goals for life after secondary school. The student's IEPs include an annual goal of increasing the student's awareness of his goals for life after secondary school. A related short-term objective states that "(student) will identify relationship between attendance, social skills, and maintaining a job, through discussions, 80% of the time." The student was involved in discussions regarding the importance of good attendance, anger management, and importance of good daily work habits at school for developing good work habits when out of school. The student also made frequent entries in his journal on the importance of good attendance and work habits in future years; anger response and management and the processing of feelings; and the continuance of good self-motivation for success after high school. The student was involved in an employment opportunity where not only discussions occurred regarding attendance, social skills and maintaining a job, but the student received practical experience as well. The student also completed an exercise on his career development goals. This exercise consisted of a series of questions which included what the student was interested in; where the student would like to work (indoors, outdoors, in the country, in the city¿); and what the student's career goals were after high school.

Another related short-term objective states that "(student) will practice filling-out applications for jobs with 80% accuracy." The student practiced filling out job applications and was required to fill out a job application for an employment opportunity at a local business in Clear Lake.

Another related short-term objective states that "When given the opportunity (student) will use various methods to apply for jobs (e.g., information interview, application, etc¿) 90% of the time." The student was given samples of job applications and had continuous practice in learning various methods to apply for jobs.

Another related short-term objective states that "When given local applications, (student) will accurately and completely fill-out the forms with 90% accuracy." The student was given sample job applications to practice filling out and completed a job application for a local business in Clear Lake. There were also discussions of some of the student's past jobs including farm work and plumbing.

Another related short-term objective states that "When filling-out applications, (student) will identify personal information needed to fill out the forms, 100% of the time." This objective was met by filling out sample job applications and completing a job application for employment in a local business. The information the student generated from his career development goals exercise was used for completing job application forms.

Another related short-term objective states "Given a job opportunity, (student) will identify and develop positive work habits and attitudes, 100% of the time." As part of his school program, the student was involved in a work experience where he was exposed to and practiced positive work habits and attitudes. One of the goals for the job opportunity was to teach the student the positive employment skills needed to be successful in a job.

Another related short-term objective states "When given an application, (student) will list people other than relatives who would give a recommendation to a potential employer, 80% of the time." The student made lists of people to use as references and how to appropriately use them in his job applications.

A final related short-term objective states "Given a self-evaluation, (student) will evaluate his job performance, 100% of the time." The student had discussions with his teachers regarding his past experiences in jobs such as farm work and plumbing. The student evaluated his job performance verbally with his teachers. This was done on a weekly basis in order for the student to be aware of his work habits and attitudes while employed on a job.

Finally, the complainant alleges that the district failed to individualize the student's IEPs as they were merely copied from year-to-year. Documentation shows that the student's IEPs were not copied from year-to-year. There were numerous revisions made to the student's short-term objectives, supplementary aids and services, behavior intervention plans, and placement offers during the 1999-2000 school year to address the student's needs.

CONCLUSION:

The parents of a child with a disability are equal participants along with school personnel in developing their child's IEP. This is an active role in which parents join with other IEP team members in discussing the child's need for special education and related services, in deciding what services the district will provide the child, and in determining the child's placement. The district meets its obligation to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to a child with a disability in part by providing special education and related services that meet the rules enforced by the department and in conformity with a proper IEP. Among the rules enforced by the department are the rules concerning the content of a child's IEP. The IEP for each child must include a statement of specific special education and related services, including supplementary aids and services or supports to be provided to the child. The statement of special education and related services, including supplementary aids and services, must specify the amount of each service. The amount of time committed to each of the services must be stated in the IEP in a manner that is clear to all who are involved in both the development and implementation of the IEP. The IEP for a child with a disability must also include a statement of measurable annual goals, including benchmarks or short-term objectives. The district must implement the IEP provisions, including the annual goals and short-term objectives or benchmarks. The special education personnel implementing the IEP provisions must hold a valid license to teach from the department.

Issue #1 alleges that the district failed to provide the student with positive reinforcement as described in his May 18, 1999, and April 17, 2000, behavior intervention plans, which were part of his IEPs. The student received positive reinforcement and encouragement both at the high school and in the alternative educational setting, which translated into improved attendance, improved work attitude, and improved grades. The district correctly implemented the law related to issue #1.

Issue #2 alleges that the district failed to provide the student with copied notes as described in the supplementary aids and services section of his IEPs for the 1999-2000 school year. The student's May 18, 1999, IEP failed to indicate the frequency the assignments will be copied and to specify the assignments and test notes that will be copied consistent with a proper IEP. The student's March 15, April 11 and 18, 2000, IEPs also failed to specify the assignments that will be copied consistent with a proper IEP. The statement of supplementary aids and services and supports were not specified in a manner that allows parents and staff to understand the services that will be delivered. There is a violation with regard to issue #2.

Issue #3 deals with the allegation that the district improperly hired a special education teacher who was not licensed to provide services to the student during the 1999-2000 school year. The district hired a substitute teacher to provide one-on-one services to the complainant's son. The teacher held a valid one-year Wisconsin special license in the area of learning disabilities during the 1999-2000 school year. The district correctly implemented the law related to issue #3.

Issue #4 deals with the allegation that the district failed to implement short-term objectives in the student's 1999-2000 IEP, relating to the annual goals dealing with increasing the student's awareness of his goals for life after secondary school. The district did provide instruction to address the short-term objectives relating to the annual goals dealing with increasing the student's awareness of his goals for life after secondary school. The objectives and associated activities to increase the student's awareness of his goals for life after secondary school were implemented and completed. The district correctly implemented the law related to issue #4.

Issue #5 alleges the district failed to individualize the student's IEPs, as they were copied from year-to-year. The student's IEPs for the 1999-2000 school year were individualized, as the short-term objectives, supplementary aids and services and supports, behavior intervention plans and placement offers were revised to address the student's needs. The district correctly implemented the law related to issue #5.

Issue #6 alleges that the district failed to include the parent as an equal participant in the development of her son's IEPs for the 1999-2000 school year, as the special education services and placement were predetermined by district staff and presented to the parent at the IEP team meetings. District staff encouraged the parent's active participation prior to and during the series of IEP team meetings that occurred during the 1999-2000 school year. The parent attended all of the IEP team meetings, but chose not to actively participate. The parent was afforded the opportunity to participate. The district correctly implemented the law related to issue #6.

______________

DIRECTIVE:

The Clear Lake School District shall, within 30 days of receipt of this report, submit to the department a corrective action plan (CAP) to ensure that the IEP of this student and the IEPs of other students which include supplementary aids and services consistent with a proper IEP specify the services to be delivered in a manner that is clear to all who are involved in both the development and implementation of the IEP.

The CAP shall include the activities the district will undertake to implement the directives, the personnel responsible for each activity, the date by which each activity will be completed, and the type of documentation that will be submitted to the department as evidence of completion of each activity. If a CAP requires the district to develop one or more products, the district may submit the product(s) as part of the corrective action plan. The CAP will be reviewed and the district will be informed if any revisions are required. The district will implement the CAP after it has been approved by the department.

_______________

This concludes our investigation of this complaint. This letter is not intended, and should not be construed, to cover any other issues regarding compliance with the IDEA or Chapter 115, Wisconsin Statutes, which may exist and which are not specifically discussed herein. Under the Wisconsin public records law, 19.31-19.39, Wisconsin Statutes, it may be necessary to release this document and related correspondence and records upon request.

signed MJT
3/15/01
____________________________________________
Mike J. Thompson, Assistant Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

glch

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