On June 26, 2000 (letter dated June 23, 2000), a complaint was filed with the Department of Public Instruction by XXXXX against Milwaukee Public Schools 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 advocate, parents, and school district and relevant pupil records from the advocate and the district. Department staff also had discussions with the parent, advocate, special education supervisor, assistant principal, and the student's teacher.
APPLICABLE STATUTES AND RULES:
Wisconsin Statutes, Section 115.76
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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(14) "Related services" means transportation and such developmental, corrective and other supportive services as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education * * *
(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.
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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 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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(3) DEVELOPMENT. * * *
e. The local education agency shall give a copy of the child's individualized education program to the child's parents with the notice of placement under 115.792 (2).
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34 CFR 300.342 When IEPs must be in effect.
(a) 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;
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34 CFR 300.345 Parent participation.
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(f) Parent copy of child's IEP. The public agency shall give the parent a copy of the child's IEP at no cost to the parent.
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Section 121.54, Wisconsin Statutes
Transportation by school districts.
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(2) GENERAL TRANSPORTATION. * * * (b) 1. Except as provided in sub. (1) or otherwise provided in this subsection, the school board of each district operating high school grades shall provide transportation to and from the school a pupil attends for each pupil residing in the school district who attends any elementary grade, including kindergarten, or high school grade at a private school located 2 miles or more from the pupil's residence, if such private school is a school within whose attendance area the pupil resides and is situated within the school district or not more than 5 miles beyond the boundaries of the school district measured along the usually traveled route.
(3) TRANSPORTATION FOR CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES. Every school board shall provide transportation for children with disabilities, as defined in 115, 76 (5), to any public or private elementary or high school, to the school operated by the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired or the Wisconsin School for the Deaf or to any special education program for children with disabilities sponsored by a state tax-supported institution of higher education, including a technical college, regardless of distance, if the request for such transportation is approved by the state superintendent. Approval shall be based on whether or not the child can walk to school with safety and comfort.
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ADMINISTRATIVE AND JUDICIAL INTERPRETATIONS:
34 CFR Part 300, Appendix A, Question 33.
33. Must a public agency include transportation in a child's IEP as a related service?
As with other related services, a public agency must provide transportation as a related service if it is required to assist the disabled child to benefit from special education.
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The public agency must ensure that any transportation service included in a child's IEP as a related service is provided at public expense and at no cost to the parents, and that the child's IEP describes the transportation arrangement.
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FINDINGS OF FACT:
The student whose education is the subject of this complaint received special education services at Milwaukee High School for the Arts (MHSA) and at a satellite site during the 1999-2000 school year. The district reevaluated the student, developed his IEP, and determined his placement during a series of IEP team meetings held on May 21, June 2, July 19, and August 2, 1999. The parent and parent advocate participated in the series of meetings. On August 2, 1999, the IEP team determined that the student is a student with disabilities in the areas of autism and speech and language. The IEP team determined the student needs transportation services to benefit from special education. The transportation services were to be provided "daily" through a reimbursement contract with the parent for those services. The student's IEP was for the period beginning August 25, 1999, and ending August 25, 2000.
On April 18, 2000, the district held an IEP team meeting to review/revise the student's IEP and to determine his placement. The parent and parent advocate participated in this meeting. The IEP team made revisions to the student's current IEP. Those revisions were handwritten on the student's existing IEP. At the end of the IEP team meeting, the special education supervisor made copies of the revised IEP and gave copies to the IEP team participants, including the parents and the advocate. The complainant alleges that the copy of the revised IEP that the parent and advocate received at the conclusion of the April 18, 2000, IEP team meeting was labeled "Draft to be typed," and that they never received a final typewritten copy of the IEP. District staff assert that the copy of the IEP that was distributed to the parents and advocate at the end of the April 18, 2000, IEP meeting was the final copy and that a final typewritten copy was never promised. District staff further assert that the copy of the IEP distributed to the parents and advocate did not include "Draft to be typed" on it. The student's IEPs for the 1999-2000 school year provide that the child needs special education and transportation services to benefit from special education.
At the beginning of the 1999-2000 school year, the parents were reluctant to let their son ride the school bus. Consequently, the parents verbally agreed to provide their son's transportation through a reimbursement contract with the district. The reimbursement contract with the district was never completed. The parents transported their son for a total of 18 days during the months of August and September 1999. The student then resumed riding the school bus until May 1, 2000, when the parents agreed to resume their son's transportation because of the district's problems in arranging for their son's specialized transportation to his new placement location. The parents resumed transportation, until their vehicle broke down. On May 24 and 29, 2000, the parent called the district staff to inform them that she was having problems with her vehicle. The parent then requested that the district provide their son's transportation or make other arrangements, such as cab fare or send a teacher to their home. The district's response was that they were in the process of working on the transportation issue. The student missed the following days of school: May 30 and 31 and June 1 and 2, 2000, because transportation services were not available. On June 26, 2000, an advocate for the parents filed an IDEA complaint with the department. On July 6, 2000, the district sent the parents a reimbursement contract for them to sign. The contract was not completed even though the parents provided their son's transportation services at varying intervals during the school year.
A school district must appoint an IEP team to develop, review and, as appropriate, revise an IEP for a child with a disability. The district must provide a copy of the child's IEP to the child's parents with the notice of placement. As part of its obligation to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to a child with a disability, a district must provide special education and related services in conformity with a child's IEP and at no cost to the parent. The child's IEP must include a statement of the specific special education and related services to be provided, including transportation services to and from school if the participants in the IEP meeting determine that it is necessary to assist the child to benefit from special education. The statement must include the amount of each of the various services to be provided, be tailored to the unique needs of the child, and be clear to all who are involved in the development and implementation of the IEP. The district must implement the provisions in the IEP including the special transportation services that will be provided for the child.
Issue #1 deals with the allegation that the district failed to provide the parents with a final type-written copy of their son's IEP that was revised at an April 18, 2000, IEP team meeting. At this IEP team meeting, the district gave copies of the student's revised IEP to all the participants, including the parents and the advocate. The law does not require the district to provide the parents with a typewritten IEP. There is a dispute concerning whether the copy of the student's IEP received by the parents and advocate was a "draft-to-be-typed" or was the final revised IEP. The department determines that the parents and the advocate did receive a final revised IEP at the April 18, 2000, IEP team meeting. Issue #1 is not substantiated.
Issue # 2 deals with the allegation that the district failed to implement provisions of the son's 1999-2000 IEPs with respect to transportation services. The student's August 2, 1999, IEP requires transportation as a related service. The parents verbally agreed to provide transportation to their son. The parents transported their son for 18 days during the months of August and September, even though the parents had not signed a transportation reimbursement contract with the district for those services. The student resumed riding the school bus at the end of September. The student's revised April 18, 2000, IEP also indicates that transportation services are to be provided as related services. At the beginning of May, the parents agreed to resume their transportation of their son because of the district's problems in arranging his specialized transportation to his new placement location. The parents informed the district that they were having problems with their vehicle, and that the district should provide transportation for their son or make other arrangements. As a result, the student missed four days of school because transportation services were not available. On July 6, 2000, the district sent the parents a reimbursement contract to sign for the transportation services they provided. The parents provided transportation services to their son at their own expense, since the district's reimbursement contract for those services was never completed. Finally, the district failed to provide transportation services in conformity with the student's IEP, as the student missed four days of school because transportation services were not available as required by the student's IEP. Issue #2 of complaint is substantiated.
The Milwaukee School District shall, within 30 days of receipt of this report, submit to the department a corrective action plan (CAP) to ensure that transportation services for this student and other students in the district are provided at no cost to the parents and are provided in conformity with their IEPs.
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.
Michael J. Thompson, Assistant Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy