IDEA Complaint Decision 01-023

On March 14, 2001, a complaint was filed with the Department of Public Instruction by XXXXX against the Viroqua Area 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 relevant education records of the child including documents submitted by the district in response to the complaint. Department staff spoke with the complainant and the district administrator.

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ISSUE:

Did the district fail to respond in a timely manner to the complainants' request on January 15, 2001, for an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting?

APPLICABLE STATUTES AND RULES:

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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(4) REVIEW AND REVISION. (a) The individualized education program team shall do all of the following:
1. Review the child's individualized education program periodically, but at least annually, to determine whether the annual goals for the child are being achieved.
2. Revise the individualized education program as appropriate * * *

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ADMINISTRATIVE AND JUDICIAL INTERPRETATIONS:

34 CFR 300, Appendix A, Question 20.

20. How frequently must a public agency conduct meetings to review, and, if appropriate, revise the IEP for each child with a disability?

A public agency must initiate and conduct meetings periodically, but at least once every twelve months, to review each child's IEP, in order to determine whether the annual goals for the child are being achieved, and to revise the IEP, as appropriate, ... * * *

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Although the public agency is responsible for determining when it is necessary to conduct an IEP meeting, the parents of a child with a disability have the right to request an IEP meeting at any time. For example, if the parents believe that the child is not progressing satisfactorily or that there is a problem with the child's current IEP, it would be appropriate for the parents to request an IEP meeting.

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The legislative history of Public Law 94-142 makes it clear that there should be as many meetings a year as any one child may need (121 Cong. Rec. S20428-29 (Nov. 19, 1975) (remarks of Senator Stafford)). Public agencies should grant any reasonable parent request for an IEP meeting. For example, if the parents question the adequacy of services that are provided while their child is suspended for short periods of time, it would be appropriate to convene an IEP meeting.


In general, if either a parent or a public agency believes that a required component of the student's IEP should be changed, the public agency must conduct an IEP meeting if it believes that a change in the IEP may be necessary to ensure the provision of FAPE. If a parent requests an IEP meeting because the parent believes that a change is needed in the provision of FAPE to the child or the educational placement of the child, and the agency refuses to convene an IEP meeting to determine whether such a change is needed, the agency must provide written notice to the parents of the refusal, including an explanation of why the agency has determined that conducting the meeting is not necessary to ensure the provision of FAPE to the student.

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FINDINGS OF FACT:

The student whose education is the subject of this complaint has been determined to be a child with a disability. An annual review and placement determination IEP team meeting was held on November 16, 2000. In a letter to the district's middle school principal dated January 15, 2001, the complainants requested a meeting to review their child's IEP. They requested the meeting be held on February 19, 2001, and asked to receive a response to this request from the district by January 23, 2001. The district believed the complainants were requesting a meeting to discuss other subjects raised in the January 15, 2001, letter regarding their daughter's grade in band and progress reports. The district did not interpret the complainants' request as a request for a formal IEP team meeting.

A meeting was held on February 19, 2001, with one of the complainants, the building principal and a special education teacher in attendance. Issues concerning the complainants' child's band and progress reports were discussed. This was not a meeting of an IEP team.

CONCLUSION:

The law requires a local education agency (LEA) to hold IEP team meetings periodically to review a child's IEP but not less than annually. Parents may request an IEP team meeting at any time. A school district must respond to any request from a parent for a meeting to review and, if necessary, revise the child's IEP. If the LEA denies the parent's request for an IEP team meeting, the LEA must provide the parent with a notice of refusal.

The complainant alleges that the district failed to honor their request for an IEP team meeting to review their child's IEP, made in a letter to the district on January 15, 2001. On February 19, 2001, one of the complainants attended a meeting at her child's school, which she believed was going to be an IEP team meeting. The building principal and one special education teacher were present at this meeting. This meeting was not an IEP team meeting as requested by the parent. The district acknowledges this error. The district has since agreed to schedule and hold an IEP team meeting for the complainant's child. Additionally, the district has sent a memorandum to all special education staff and building administrators clarifying their responsibilities when a parent may be requesting an IEP team meeting, including ascertaining whether the parent is requesting a meeting when staff is uncertain about the parent's intentions. Consequently, no additional corrective action will be required of the district.

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This concludes our investigation of this complaint #01-023, 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 MJT
5/4/01
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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