IDEA Complaint Decision 00-052

On August 28, 2000 (letter dated August 22, 2000), a complaint was filed with the Department of Public Instruction by XXXXX against the Superior 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. During this investigation, department staff reviewed relevant education records of the child, statements submitted by district staff, and the district's response to the complaint. Department staff spoke by telephone with the district's director of student services.

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ISSUE:

During the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 school years, did the district fail to implement the provisions of the child's individualized education program (IEP) requiring full-time sign language interpreter assistance?

APPLICABLE STATUTES AND RULES:

Section 115.76, Wisconsin Statutes
Definitions.

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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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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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(c) A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child * * *

ADMINISTRATIVE & JUDICIAL INTERPRETATIONS:

34 CFR Part 300, Appendix A, Question 31.

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.

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FINDINGS OF FACT:

The IEP in effect for the complainants' child during the 1999-2000 school year stated that the child would receive educational interpreter services "daily" at Great Lakes School. In its response to the department, the district acknowledged that it did not provide daily sign language interpreter services to the child.

The district had a full-time sign language interpreter for the child at the beginning of the 1999-2000 school year, but the interpreter took extended medical leaves from September 13 to November 10, 1999, and from January 14, 2000, until the end of the school year. During these leaves of absence, the district attempted to hire another full-time interpreter for the child, but only was able to contract with interpreters part-time. The child's teachers took other actions to help minimize the absence of an interpreter such as utilizing a daily homework notebook, modifications of spelling and writing, use of a peer partner, and clarification of all directions given to the child.

The child's current IEP states that he will receive assistance from a sign language interpreter "for instructional times" in "instructional settings" at Great Lakes School. Again, the district has acknowledged that it has been unable to meet this IEP requirement. The district has been able to provide a sign language interpreter to the child for approximately three days per week. The district has made and is continuing to make efforts to hire an additional sign language interpreter for the child, including contacting the Minnesota Registry for Interpreters for the Deaf, contacting colleges in Wausau and Minnesota, and placing advertisements on websites and in newspapers. To date, these efforts have been unsuccessful.

CONCLUSION:

A local educational agency (LEA) must provide each child with a disability a free appropriate public education (FAPE). An LEA meets its obligation to provide FAPE to a child in part by providing special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services in conformity with a proper IEP.

The district has attempted to hire a full-time educational interpreter for the child during the past and current school years, but it has not yet been successful. As a result, the complainants' child has not received educational interpreter services to the extent required by his 1999-2000 and current IEPs. The complaint is substantiated.

The district focused much of its hiring efforts in Minnesota because of its proximity to the district. The department recommends that the district increase its hiring efforts by sending out an educational interpreter position description to all four interpreter training programs in Wisconsin and to those in Illinois, as well. In addition, the department advises the district to send a job posting to the Wisconsin Registry for Interpreters for the Deaf and to contact Cooperative Educational Service Agency 12 for possible assistance.

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DIRECTIVE:

The Superior School District shall, within 30 days of receipt of this report, submit to the department a corrective action plan (CAP) to ensure that the complainants' child, and all hearing impaired children in the district, receive educational interpreter services and other special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services as required by each child's 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 the department has approved it.

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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
10/25/00
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Mike 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