On May 22, 2001, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Wilmot UHS District. The issue is whether the district, during the 2000-2001 school year, failed to provide a child with a disability a free appropriate public education (FAPE) by repeatedly suspending him from school. This is the department’s decision for that complaint.
The student whose education is the subject of this complaint registered at Wilmot Union High School on December 14, 2000. On December 15, 2000, the district accepted the student’s individualized educational program (IEP) developed by his previous school district. This IEP provides for the student to attend school for periods one through four. The IEP also provides that the group home where the child resides is to be involved in any crisis intervention for the student in the school setting. Due to a staff shortage, the group home requested that the student attend school for periods one through seven, and informed the school that group home staff were not available for involvement in crisis intervention at school. The district did not hold an IEP team meeting to consider making changes in the child’s IEP based on this information and the IEP was not modified.
Based on materials submitted by the district, the student was suspended from Wilmot Union High School for a total of 17 school days between December 18, 2000, and June 15, 2001. Most of these suspensions were due to behaviors that occurred in the afternoon. On February 14, the student was removed for the 11th day while attending school in the district.1 Prior to that removal, the district attempted to schedule an IEP team meeting. The district then discovered that the complainant, the group home director, did not have legal guardianship for this student, as he previously had indicated. The parent was contacted and an IEP team meeting was scheduled for February 23, 2001, but the meeting was cancelled at the request of the complainant. On February 26, 2001, the student’s school day was shortened to periods one through four, as required in the IEP, following group home staff changes. An IEP team meeting, which included the parent, was held on March 28, 2001, during which the modified school schedule and behavior supports were considered.
Beginning on the 11th day of suspension in the school year, the district was obligated to provide services for the student to the extent necessary to enable him to progress appropriately in the general curriculum and advance appropriately toward achieving annual goals, and to take actions regarding a functional behavior assessment (FBA) The district suspended the student without meeting these requirements.
In addition, before a child may be removed from his current placement for more than ten school days in a school year, school officials must determine whether an additional removal would result in a change of placement. If the district decides that a change in placement would occur, it must conduct an IEP team meeting. Additional removals are allowed unless the behavior is determined to be a manifestation of the student’s disability. The district failed to address this requirement as well.
While the district did make attempts to convene the IEP team earlier, a meeting was not held until March 28. The March 28 IEP addresses the issue of shortened days, and the student began attending school mornings only. The IEP did not include or plan a functional behavior assessment, and it did not include a behavior intervention plan.
Prior to the beginning of the 2001-2002 school year, the IEP team must develop a plan for conducting an FBA. The FBA must be completed, and the IEP team must develop a BIP to address the student’s behavior problems at school. The district must submit documentation of these child-specific activities to the department by August 25, 2001, to ensure completion of the activities prior to the start of the 2001-2002 school year. The district also must provide the department with documentation to ensure that school officials are aware of requirements when students are subject to disciplinary removals in excess of ten days in a school year. The district is urged to utilize the computer program developed by DPI at http://www2.dpi.state.wi.us/scripts/exsysweb.exe?KBNAME=discipline. The department has provided information addressing these requirements in Information Update Bulletins 00.01 and 00.02.
The district determined that the eleventh day of suspension for the student occurred on February 14, 2001. However, the child's attendance records from his previous district of attendance indicate that he was suspended from school for three days between September 5, 2000, and December 13, 2000. These three days of suspension must be considered when determining the total days of suspension in a school year. Including the three days of suspension from the student's previous district means January 16, 2001, was the eleventh day of suspension.
//signed CST 7/23/01
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy