IDEA Complaint Decision 02-048

On July 31, 2002, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). The issue in this complaint is whether the district improperly changed the placements for three children with disabilities in June or July 2002. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint.

On April 25, 2002, an IEP team determined that child A's placement would be two hours and thirty minutes of special education services and 20 minutes of psychological services as related services at his residence. Child A's April 25 IEP indicates that the child's guardian completed a choice form for a 2002-2003 high school. The student assignment form signed by child A's guardian and a school administrator on March 18, 2002, lists three high school choices and recommends one of the three high schools. The section of the form labeled "central office use only" changed child A's school assignment for the 2002-2003 school year to a high school which the guardian had not listed among the three choices. During the summer a letter was sent to child A's guardian which informed her of the child's 2002-2003 school assignment. The special education supervisor for the high school confirmed that child A is assigned to the high school. There is no record of an IEP team determining a change in placement for child A.

On December 13, 2001, an IEP team determined that child B's placement would be a half-day schedule with special education services provided in both the special education and regular education classrooms at an MPS middle school. There is no information that a choice form for a 2002-2003 high school was completed. During the summer a letter was sent to child B's guardian which informed her of the child's high school assignment. The special education supervisor for the high school confirmed that the child B is assigned to the high school. There is no record of an IEP team determining high school placement for child B.

On April 8, 2002, an IEP team determined that child C's placement would be 6 hours per day special education services provided in the special education classroom at an MPS elementary school. There is no information that a choice form for a 2002-2003 middle school was completed. During the summer a letter was sent to child C's parent which informed her of the child's middle school assignment. There is no record of an IEP team determining a change in placement for child C.

An IEP team must determine the special education placement, including the school building, for a child with a disability. The placement decision must be made based on the child's IEP. The LEA must provide a child's parents or guardian prior written notice whenever the LEA proposes to initiate or change, or refuses to initiate or change, the educational placement of a child with a disability. Under limited circumstances a district may change a child's building without conducting an IEP team meeting. When a child changes schools because his or her residence changes to another attendance area within the local educational agency, or the child changes to a school the parent has selected under the MPS district open enrollment policy (three choice) or the child's program or school building closes, an IEP team meeting is not required if: 1.) the child's new school building is the building that he or she would otherwise attend if not disabled; and 2.) the child's IEP can be implemented as written in the new school building.

On September 5, 2002, the first day of school for the 2002-2003 school year, the three children were assigned to continue to receive special education services according to ongoing IEPs at locations different than locations at the end of the 2001-2002 school year. The district did not conduct IEP team meetings to determine the children's placement and did not provide the children's parents or guardians prior notices of placement changes. The limited circumstances permitting changing a child's placement without conducting an IEP team meeting do not apply in these instances. The district improperly changed the children's placements without conducting IEP team meetings or providing the children's parents or guardian prior written notice of the educational placement of the three children. The district is directed to immediately conduct IEP team meetings to determine placements for child A and B and provide each child's parents or guardian a notice of placement with a copy of the child's IEP if it is revised at the IEP team meeting. The district must also send the department a copy of each child's IEP and notice of placement by October 11, 2002. Child C began the year attending a private school. If the student returns to the district, the district must conduct an IEP team meeting and provide the child's parents or guardian a notice of placement with a copy of the child's IEP. The district must also send the department a copy of child C's IEP and notice of placement

The district is implementing a consolidated corrective action plan (CCAP) regarding several complaints to ensure that the district follows required procedures related to determining educational placements for children with disabilities. The December 15, 2000, memo, revised placement procedures and changes of building assignment, must be revised to ensure that when a child with a disability transitions from one level to the next an IEP team determines the child's placement, including the building based on the child's IEP. By October 11, 2002, the revised procedures must be submitted to DPI for approval. By November 1, 2002, the approved revised placement procedures will be distributed to special education supervisors, diagnostic teachers, local education agency (LEA) representatives, principals, assistant principals, special education leadership liaisons, and central office staff who make building assignment decisions. Department staff will continue to work closely with the district to assist in its review, revision, and implementation of the placement CCAP.

//signed 9/27/02
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