IDEA Complaint Decision 00-036

On May 15, 2000 (letter dated May 11, 2000), a complaint was filed with the Department of Public Instruction by XXXXX against the Greenfield 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, the director of pupil services, a principal, a school social worker, a speech and language pathologist and an early childhood teacher, and relevant pupil records from the school district. Department staff also conversed with the parent and director of pupil services.

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ISSUE #1:

the district fail to implement the following annual goal in the child's 1999-2000 individualized education program (IEP): To continue the picture exchange communication book so that (student) could take a picture of chocolate milk and learn to say drink?

ISSUE #2:

the district fail to inform the parent of the child's progress toward his annual goals and the extent to which that progress is sufficient to enable him to achieve the goals by the end of the 1999-2000 school year?

APPLICABLE STATUTES AND RULES:

Section 115.76, Wisconsin Statutes
Definitions.

In this subchapter:

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(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.

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(15) "Special education" means specially designed instruction, regardless of where the instruction is conducted, that is provided at no cost to the child or the child's parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including instruction in physical education.
(16) "Supplementary aids and services" means aids, services and other supports that are provided in regular education classes or other education-related settings to enable a child with a disability to be educated with nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate.

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Section 115.77, Wisconsin Statutes
Local educational agency duties.

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

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

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Section 115.787, Wisconsin Statutes
Individualized education programs.

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

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(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, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child * * *

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(h) A statement of all of the following:

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2. How the child's parents will be regularly informed, at least as often as parents are informed of their nondisabled children's progress, of their child's progress toward the annual goals and the extent to which that progress is sufficient to enable the child to achieve the goals by the end of effective period of the individualized education program.

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Sec. 300.347 Content of IEP.

(a) General. The IEP for each child with a disability must include--

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(2) A statement of measurable annual goals, including benchmarks or short-term objectives, related to--
(i) 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 (i.e., the same curriculum as for nondisabled children), or for preschool children, as appropriate, to participate in appropriate activities; and
(ii) Meeting each of the child's other educational needs that result from the child's disability;
(3) A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child--

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(6) The projected date for the beginning of the services and modifications described in paragraph (a)(3) of this section, and the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services and modifications * * *.

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ADMINISTRATIVE AND JUDICIAL INTERPRETATIONS:

34 CFR Part 300, Appendix A, Questions 31 and 35.

31. Must the public agency ensure that all 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 child whose education is the subject of this complaint received special education and related services, including supplementary aids and services, in the early childhood program in the Greenfield School District. On October 1, 1999, the district conducted a meeting and determined the child's eligibility for special education and developed the child's initial IEP for a period beginning October 25, 1999, and ending October 24, 2000, as the child turned 3 years of age on October 22, 1999. The child's parent participated in the meeting. The child's October 1, 1999, IEP requires special education programming, including early childhood special education, to work on cognitive, social and speech/language skills for four half days per week, and the provision of speech and language therapy to work on expressive and receptive speech/language skills four times per week for 20 minute sessions. The child's IEP also requires transportation services four times per week from home/school and supplementary aids and services, including a picture exchange system on an as-needed basis. Even though the child's IEP was developed in October 1999, the child did not begin attending school until January 13, 2000, because of problems the parent experienced in obtaining child care.

The complainant alleges that the district failed to implement the following annual goal: To continue the picture exchange communication book so that the child could take a picture of chocolate milk and learn to say drink. The child's October 1, 1999, IEP includes annual goals and short-term objectives dealing with developing and improving the child's expressive language, cognitive, and social skills. The child's IEP communication goal was to develop his expressive language skills by 1 year, moving from an approximate language age of 12-14 months to 24-26 months. The speech/language and early childhood staff noted the child's use of oral language and focused their attention on oral language growth which included expanding the child's expressive vocabulary, developing the mean length of his utterances, expanding his sound reportoire, and improving his speech imitation skills. District staff focused on developing the child's expressive language skills rather than relying on non-oral communication, such as the picture exchange system. The child's IEP does not include an annual goal or short-term objectives or benchmarks dealing with the picture exchange communication book. The child's IEP requires that the picture exchange system be provided as a support service on an as-needed basis, but his IEP does not specify the circumstances under which the support services are needed, such as the occurrence of a particular behavior.

The complainant also alleges that the district failed to inform the parent of the child's progress toward his annual goals and the extent to which that progress is sufficient to enable him to achieve the goals by the end of the 1999-2000 school year. The child's IEP includes the following procedures for informing parents of the child's progress toward the annual goals and the extent to which that progress is sufficient to enable the child to achieve the goals by the end of the year:

Parents will be informed through parent conferences, home visits, IEP meetings, phone calls and progress reports. A "Report Card on Progress Toward Goals" which reports on the progress toward annual goals will be completed by the Special Education teacher.

The district provides progress reports for kindergarten students twice annually, and uses the same reporting schedule for early childhood and preschool speech/language students. The district issues the progress reports at the end of the first and second semesters. The district's "Report Card on Progress Toward Goals" delineates the child's progress on each annual goal on a quarterly basis. The child's progress on each goal is measured according to the following categories: minimal or no progress, satisfactory progress, significant progress, or mastered. The child's report card shows that he was making satisfactory or significant progress on his IEP goals and according to school staff would have achieved his goals by the end of the school year had he remained in school. The child attended for five days at the end of the second quarter, all of the third quarter and eight days in the fourth quarter. On June 7, 2000, the parent was sent a copy of the district's report card on goal progress. In addition, the district made numerous attempts to meet with the parent to discuss her concerns and the child's progress, but was unsuccessful.

CONCLUSION:

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 which 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. A child's IEP also must include a statement of how the parents will be regularly informed, at least as often as parents are informed of their nondisabled children's progress, of their child's progress toward the annual goals and the extent to which that progress is sufficient to enable the child to achieve the annual goals. The district must implement the IEP provisions, including the annual goals and short-term objectives or benchmarks.

Issue #1 deals with the allegation that the district failed to implement the annual goal: To continue the picture exchange communication book so that the child could take a picture of chocolate milk and learn to say drink. The child's October 1, 1999, IEP included annual goals and short-term objectives dealing with the development and improvement of the complainant's child's expressive language, cognitive, and social skills. The district provided services consistent with the child's needs set forth in these goals. The child's IEP does not include an annual goal or short-term objectives or benchmarks dealing with a picture exchange communication book. However, the child's IEP does require that the picture exchange system be provided as a support service on an as-needed basis. The district failed to specify the circumstances under which the support services are needed, such as the occurrence of a particular behavior, consistent with a proper IEP. The circumstances must be specified in a manner that allows parents and staff to understand the services that will be delivered. The complaint is substantiated on issue #1.

Issue #2 deals with the allegation that the district failed to inform the parent of the child's progress toward his annual goals and the extent to which that progress is sufficient to enable him to achieve the goals by the end of the 1999-2000 school year. The parent was informed of her child's progress as often as parents of nondisabled children. Since the child was only in attendance from January 13, to April 13, 2000, the child's progress report reflected primarily his 3rd quarter progress. The report card shows that the child was making satisfactory or significant progress on his IEP goals and according to school staff would have achieved his goals by the end of the school year had he remained in school. On June 7, 2000, the parent was sent a copy of the district's report card on his goal progress. In addition, the district made numerous attempts to meet with the parent to discuss the child's progress, but was unsuccessful. The complaint is not substantiated on issue #2.

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DIRECTIVE:

The Greenfield 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 provide 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 the 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.

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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
9/20/00
_______________________________________
Michael J. Thompson, Assistant Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

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