IDEA Complaint Decision 02-031

On May 17, 2002, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). This is the department's decision for that complaint. The issue is whether the district failed to evaluate a child for a suspected disability in a timely manner when requested in November 2001.

On November 12, 2001, a private child welfare agency case manager in a phone conversation with an MPS school psychologist requested an educational evaluation of a child. On November 12, the school psychologist sent a facsimile to the case manager which included consent for psychological services and surrogate parent assignment forms. Between November and January, the case manager and school psychologist discussed an educational evaluation for the child over the telephone and in person. The district in its response indicated that it treated this inquiry as a request for a non-special education evaluation and the district has no record of a written special education referral. In an interview with department staff, the child welfare case manager stated that she requested a special education evaluation in writing. This statement is supported by a facsimile she sent to the MPS school psychologist on November 26, 2001, which refers to an "IEP evaluation" for the child. The statement also is supported by an internal private child welfare agency facsimile dated January 10, 2002, inquiring about the status of their request for an "M-team evaluation." The department finds that the child welfare agency case manager did attempt to refer the child for a special education evaluation.

Any person who reasonably believes that a child is a child with a disability may refer a child to a local educational agency (LEA) for a special education evaluation. All referrals must be in writing and must include the name of the child and the reason why the person believes that the child is a child with a disability. When a district receives a referral for a child, it must appoint an individualized education program (IEP) team to evaluate the child. The IEP team must complete its evaluation, develop an IEP for the child, and notify the parent of the child's placement within 90 days of receipt of the referral, unless the parent agrees to an extension or the department grants one. The district did not respond timely to the private child welfare agency's case manager's request.

By September 15, 2002, the district will conduct training for building local education agency (LEA) representatives, building coordinators, special education supervisors, and special education leadership liaisons to ensure that in response to a referral for a special education evaluation, the district evaluates a child with a disability in a timely manner. By October 1, 2002, the district must submit to the department either a written assurance that all noted staff attended the training or a list of staff who did not attend and a description of how the district informed these staff of the requirement. By September 15, 2002, the district must distribute to special education teachers, related service personnel, building principals, building LEA representatives, building coordinators, special education supervisors, and special education leadership liaisons an issue of the Disability Digest which includes an explanation of this requirement regarding responding to request for an evaluation of child. Language to be included in the Digest must be submitted to the department for approval no later than August 15, 2002. A copy of the Digest provided to staff must be submitted to the department no later than October 1, 2002.

The child welfare agency case manager stated that the child has most recently been in a residential care center. MPS is directed to determine whether it is the district responsible for ensuring the provision of free appropriate public education to the child under s. 115.81. MPS must inform the department of its determination with in 30 days of this decision. If MPS is currently the responsible agency or if the child reenrolls in an MPS school for the 2002-2003 school year, the district must complete the special education evaluation expeditiously. The district must provide the department with copies of the IEP team determination within 15 days following completion of the evaluation.

This concludes our investigation of this complaint.

//signed 7/16/02
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

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