IDEA Complaint Decision 01-006

On January 24, 2001 (letter dated January 15, 2001), a complaint was filed with the Department of Public Instruction by XXXXX against the Appleton Area School District. A copy of the complaint letter is enclosed. The complainants allege violations of state and federal laws regarding the public agency's implementation of programs for children with disabilities.

Under 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 has a responsibility to investigate such complaints. In investigating a complaint, the department reviews a district's compliance with state and federal requirements. In investigating this complaint, department staff reviewed materials submitted by the complainants, interviewed the hearing officer assigned to conduct a due process hearing requested by complainants, interviewed the district's director of special education, and reviewed a letter submitted by the district. Following is a report of the findings and conclusions.

ISSUE #1:

Did the district, during the fall of 2000, revise the individualized education program (IEP) for complainants' child without conducting an IEP team meeting?

On June 12, 2000, complaints filed with the department a request for a due process hearing regarding educational services provided by the district to the child whose education is the subject of this complaint. Individualized education program (IEP) team meetings were conducted in August and September in the hope that the parties would be able to reach an agreement on issues in the hearing and avoid the need to complete the hearing process. The parties were not successful in reaching agreement, the hearing was held, and a decision was issued by the hearing officer on November 22, 2000. In a letter to complainants dated October 5, 2000, the district indicated that it would not implement the IEP drafted during the August and September meetings until after the hearing officer issued his decision. In January 2001 the child became a resident of a different school district before the district against which this complaint was filed began to implement the draft IEP. The IEP documents which were drafted during the August and September meetings never were implemented.

The complainants alleged that the district made changes to the IEP drafted in August and September following the IEP team meetings and that the changes modified agreements reached during the meetings. Because the district never implemented the IEPs, no violation relating to this issue occurred.

Issue #2:

Did the district fail to safeguard the confidentiality of the childs education records when it provided information to expert witnesses following a request by the parent for a due process hearing?

Following the complainants' request for a due process hearing, the district contracted with two educators who are not employed by the district to be expert witnesses for the district during the hearing process. The district shared the child's education records with these individuals and permitted them to observe the child in his school program. During the hearing process, the complainants argued to the hearing officer that the district had failed to protect the confidentiality of their child's education records. The hearing officer determined that the district had acted appropriately and permitted the witnesses to testify during the hearing regarding their observations of the child's program and their conclusions, based in part on their review of the records. These determinations of the hearing officer address issue #2 in this complaint and are binding on the department. The department will not proceed with an investigation of issue #2.

This concludes our investigation of this complaint, and we are closing this complaint investigation. 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 2/2/01
Mike J. Thompson, Assistant Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

Dec/jrm

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