On January 27, 2003, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Black River Falls School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues are listed and addressed below.
- Whether the district, during the 2002-2003 school year provided student records for review when requested.
The parents acknowledge that they were provided access to their son's student records held in the guidance office but maintain they were not provided records held by their son's teachers. The student who is the subject of this complaint is an adult. The department received a copy of a letter written by the student on November 26, 2002, requesting to review his records. At the same time, the student also submitted permission for others, including his parents, to review his school records. The district received these letters just prior to the November 26, 2002, IEP team meeting. The district also received copies of these requests in a letter from the parents on December 7, 2002. The district provided evidence that the student reviewed his special education records on December 10, 2002, and was given the opportunity to review his cumulative records which he declined. On December 11, 2002, the parents hand delivered a letter to the district asking that all of their son's records by made available by December 12, 2002. The letter indicated their desire to review these records prior to a scheduled December 16, 2002, IEP team meeting. Both parents were given access to and copies of their son's student records on or about January 14, 2003. The district also provided copies of records to outside agencies upon receipt of a request and release. The district also informed the department that individual teachers did not possess any records that were not already included in the student's special education file or cumulative file. A school district must comply with a request to inspect and review any educational record relating to their children without unnecessary delay and before any meeting regarding an IEP, and in no case more that 45 days after the request has been made. The district did not provide parents access to the student's records prior to the December 16, 2002, IEP team meeting. No child specific corrective action is required because records were provided in January. The district must submit corrective measures within 30 days of receiving this decision to ensure that appropriate staff understand the requirement to provide records in advance of IEP team meetings.
- Whether the district, during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years, informed parents of their rights to additional time and a copy of the evaluation report at the beginning of the IEP team meeting; and, following the determination that the child continues to have a disability, and prior to developing or revising an IEP for the child, asked each IEP team member whether he/she needs additional time and whether he/she wants a copy of the evaluation report before proceeding.
Copies of the student's IEPs sent to the department from the parents and the district all contained statements confirming that the LEA informed the parent(s) of their rights to additional time and a copy of the evaluation report at the beginning of the IEP team meeting. The district also noted that the IEP team meetings in question were for the purposes of reviewing, revising and developing an annual IEP and not for the purpose of determining that the student continues to have a disability. The district also noted that parents and staff knew of their right to additional time as evidenced by the number of IEP team meetings that were held to accommodate the time needed. A three-year reevaluation began after this complaint was received and was facilitated through the special education mediation process. The district stated that IEP team members were informed of their rights to additional time and a copy of the evaluation reports, as evidenced by the statements on the IEP cover sheets. Reports of evaluations conducted by the district and from an outside agency were provided to all IEP team members.
- Whether the district, during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years, included all IEP team participants who will attend the meeting on the invitation notice.
The parents claim that district personnel attended IEP team meetings but had not been included on the invitation to the meeting. The department reviewed the IEPs from January 14, 2003, December 16, 2002, and December 19, 2001, and found that district staff who signed the IEP cover sheet as having attended the IEP team meeting were all included on the invitation notice which the parents received. The department also reviewed the invitation notice provided by the parents for a November 26, 2002, IEP team meeting that included three district staff as IEP team participants. An IEP sign in sheet for the November 26, 2002, IEP team meeting indicated that in addition to the three staff members on the invitation, four other district staff members attended the meeting. A district has a responsibility to notify parents of who will be in attendance at IEP team meetings. Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district must submit a proposed corrective action plan to the department to ensure that special education staff understand this requirement.
- Whether the district, during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years, invited a representative of any other agency that was likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services.
The parents maintain that the district failed to ensure that needed interagency transition responsibilities and interagency transition linkages were established by not inviting representatives of the county social services and Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) to their child's IEP team meetings. Beginning when the child is the age of 16, or earlier if determined appropriate by the IEP team, and annually thereafter until the child is no longer eligible for special education and related services, the IEP must include a statement of needed transition services of the child, including, when appropriate, a statement of the interagency responsibilities. If the purpose of the meeting is the consideration of transition services for a student, the public agency must invite a representative of any other agency that is likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services.
The student's December 19, 2001, IEP listed transition activities in the areas of academic instruction to prepare the student for acceptance in a four-year college and employment objectives. In February 2002, the student's special education teacher arranged a meeting with a DVR counselor and the student. On February 19, 2002, the student met with the DVR counselor and discussed services that may be available if the student went on to college. On February 19, 2002, the district e-mailed the student's parents with information from this meeting and inquired about arranging a meeting with them and the DVR counselor. On March 18, 2002, a copy of the student's IEP was sent to DVR. Another e-mail was sent to the parents on April 25, 2002, following a conversation between the student's teacher and the DVR counselor. The teacher again inquired about arranging a meeting with them, their son, and the DVR counselor.
It is the district's contention that the student's parents wanted their son to be included in regular education classes. The district informed the department that they could not provide all academic scheduling and meet the parents requests for, among other things, job shadowing and daily living skills. Once it was assured that the student would have the required credits for graduation, training in future employment and independent living was included at the December 16, 2002, IEP team meeting. The parents informed the district that they had invited representatives from the county social services and DVR to the December 16, 2002, IEP team meeting. Consequently the district did not believe they also needed to invite them. A representative from the county social services attended the meeting and a representative from DVR participated via the telephone. During the December 16, 2002, IEP team meeting the district agreed to arrange and pay for a comprehensive evaluation through UW-Stout's vocational and community living assessment service. The student participated in the assessment in February 2003, and the resulting reports were included as part of the student's three-year reevaluation. The district and the parents entered into mediation to further address transition issues. Representatives from outside agencies were involved in the December 16, 2002, and the January 14, 2003, IEP team meetings, as well as IEP team meetings held after this complaint was filed. The district included a representative of agencies likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services.
- Whether the district, during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school year, included courses of study needed to prepare the student for a successful transition to his goal for life after secondary school.
The student's December 19, 2001, IEP included the following transition statement: "[Student's name]… has expressed a wish to go on to post high school education. He will need academic classes that will gain him entry into a four-year college and continuing help with organizational and social skills." The student's December 16, 2002, IEP included the following transition statement: "[Student's name] … has expressed a desire to go on to post-high school education. However, [student's name] has significant deficits in social skills and independent living skills making training in these areas important."
Beginning when the student attains the age of 14, and annually thereafter until the student is no longer eligible for special education and related services, the IEP must include a statement identifying the courses of study needed to prepare the student for a successful transition to his or her goals for life after secondary school, such as participation in advanced placement courses or a vocational education program. The parents argue that their son was interested in becoming a writer and that the district failed to address this interest and identify needed courses of study. Coursework in English is a requirement for graduation so the district did not specifically include that course in their transition statement. The district met the requirement by including courses of study needed to prepare the student for a successful transition to his goal for life after secondary school.
- Whether the district, during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years, included annual goals and short-term objectives that are measurable.
The department reviewed the goals and objectives from the student's December 19, 2001; December 16, 2002; and January 14, 2003, IEPs. Each IEP included four to six goals and from sixteen to twenty four short-term objectives. Three of the goals were identical in all three IEPs. Annual goal statements must be measurable and include a level of attainment that the child reasonably can be expected to accomplish in 12 months. Not all of the goals were measurable. The district was found not to have met this requirement during the department's October 29-30, 2002, on-site compliance review and has developed a corrective action plan (CAP), approved by the department, which includes staff inservice to correct this error. The district is in the process of conducting IEP team meetings for this student to develop new goals and objectives for this student following the three-year reevaluation. The district will submit evidence that the goals contained in that IEP are measurable.
- Whether the district, during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years, informed regular education teachers of their specific responsibilities for implementing the student's IEP in their classroom.
The parents maintain that regular education teachers do not see the student's IEPs. The parents contend that regular education teachers are unaware of their responsibilities for implementing the IEP, especially the adaptations and modifications included in the IEP. During the department's on-site compliance review in October 2002, district staff, including regular education teachers, were interviewed. Teachers reported that they are informed of their responsibilities for implementing the IEPs of children in their classrooms by the student's case managers and/or by attending the IEP team meetings. The parents provided the department with a November 15, 2002, letter they sent to the district administrator indicating they had provided a packet of information to staff members working with their son. They also mentioned that a meeting was held with many of their son's teachers before the 2002-2003 school year started. The district provided the department with pages from the student's IEPs that were given to his teachers. These pages included the student's goals and objectives and the modifications and adaptations to be provided within the regular education setting. The district informed regular education teachers of their specific responsibilities for implementing the student's IEP.
- Whether the district, during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years, provided supplementary aids and services stated in the IEP.
Each IEP reviewed by the department included supplementary aids and services to be provided for the student. The parents indicated several concerns regarding the supplemental aids and services including their belief that most of these supplemental aids and services have not been provided because teachers have not received copies of them; the decisions about what modifications and adaptations to provide were not team decisions; and the modifications and adaptations offered are from lists for students with organizational problems and for students with off-task behaviors. The district responded that the supplementary aids and services to be provided within the regular education setting were appropriate and developed to meet the student's needs as outlined in his goals and objectives. The district maintains that the adaptations and modifications included in the student's IEPs were discussed at IEP team meetings and that staff responsible for implementing them had knowledge of their existence.
Supplementary aids and services means aids, services and other supports that are provided in regular education classes or other education-related settings to enable a child with a disability to be educated with nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate. The amount of time to be committed to each of the various services to be provided must be (1) appropriate to the specific service, and (2) stated in the IEP in a manner that is clear to all who are involved in both the development and implementation of the IEP. The student's IEPs contain references to two checklists, modifications and adaptations for students with attention disorders and inability to focus or complete tasks, and modifications and adaptations for students with organizational problems. Several items from those checklists were selected to be provided for this student. The student's IEPs include the following frequency and amount for these services: "all academic classes daily per assignment." It is difficult to ascertain whether every one of the identified modifications and adaptations were provided for all assignments, daily, and in all academic classes. The district maintains that it is the district's and teacher's discretion to make adjustments in the provision of these services, and that some, but not all, of the items from the checklists were used daily. The district is aware of their need to provide greater specificity in writing the frequency and amount of supplementary aids and services it provides students with disabilities. The district was found not to have met this requirement during the department's October 29-30, 2002, on-site compliance review in this area, and has developed a corrective action plan (CAP), approved by the department, which includes staff inservice to correct this error. Following the conclusion of the IEP team meetings scheduled for this student, the district will submit evidence that the supplementary aids and services describe clear amounts and frequencies.
- Whether the district, during the 2002-2003 school year, contacted the student's parents and afforded them the opportunity to participate in the review of existing evaluation data on the student and in identifying what additional data, if any, were needed to complete the reevaluation.
The parents maintain that decisions regarding evaluations are determined prior to their input. On December 11, 2002, a meeting was held with the student, his special and regular education teachers, and the school psychologist for the purpose of completing a worksheet to consider existing data and determine if additional tests or evaluation materials were needed. The student was an adult at this time, agreed to additional testing, and signed consent for the testing during this meeting. The student has since been evaluated in the areas of academic achievement; fine motor manipulation; sensory information; assistive technology; large motor strength and functional ability in the school setting; speech and language related to pragmatics and quality of expressive output; and adaptive skills related to functional living skills, strengths and weaknesses. The evaluation from UW-Stout was also integrated as part of the reevaluation. The district followed required procedures in including, in this case, the adult student, in a review of existing evaluation data and in identifying what additional data, if any, is needed to complete the reevaluation. The district also included the parents, as IEP team participants, in the review.
- Whether the district, during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years, provided copies of the evaluation report with the IEP.
The district had not completed an evaluation or reevaluation during the time period of the complaint. No IEP team meetings held during the 2001-2002 or 2002-2003 school, years prior to this complaint, included evaluation. The district, therefore, had no evaluation reports to provide to the parents.
- Whether the district, during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years, involved parents and regular education teachers as equal partners in the IEP process when making decisions regarding: adding assistive technology (AT) to the IEP, considering participation in district-wide assessments, extended school year (ESY), supplementary aids and services, related services, and changing the content of the IEP.
The parents believe that discussions concerning ESY, AT, participation in district-wide assessments, supplementary aids and services, and related services either haven't taken place, or decisions were made in regard to these issues prior to IEP team meetings. In response, the district provided evidence of the involvement of the parent and regular education teachers at all IEP team meetings. In the 2001-2002 IEP, AT was considered and it was determined the student did not require AT services. Related services were considered in 2001-2002 and include the provision of counseling and vocational tracking as related services. Supplementary aids and services are also included in all of the student's IEPs and have been discussed earlier. ESY was not raised as an issue during the 2001-2002 school year. The district does not conduct district-wide assessments after grade 10, and there were therefore, no discussions of his involvement for the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years.
During the 2002-2003 school year, the district convened three IEP team meetings at the time of this complaint to resolve issues regarding the student's IEP. As mentioned earlier, the district and parents also entered into mediation in an attempt to resolve some of the issues. The student's 2002-2003 IEP documents the IEP team's recommendations for AT services. An occupational therapy (OT) evaluation was conducted as part of the three-year reevaluation to ascertain the need for additional AT services. The district maintains they are not aware of district staff making any unilateral changes in the content of the student's IEPs. The district involved parents and regular education teachers as equal partners in the IEP process.
- Whether the district, during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years, considered the student's strengths when developing the present level of performance.
The district provided several examples demonstrating that the student's strengths were considered when developing his IEPs. Examples from the student's 2001-2002 IEP include that the student has good academic abilities; is able to group ideas and difficult concepts; is creative and has musical talents; is friendly and gets along well with adults. These strengths were also included in the student's 2002-2003 IEP as well as a list of fifteen strengths provided by the parents. The district considered the student's strengths when developing the present level of performance.
- Whether the district, during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years, addressed all areas of need including: job shadowing, job experiences, community experience, acquisition of daily living skills, social skills training, depression, and results of an outside evaluation.
During the 2001-2002 school year, the student was involved full-time in the general curriculum with the intent of meeting graduation requirements and coursework appropriate for future attendance at a post-secondary institution. The issues of social skills training and depression have been addressed throughout the student's high school years as evidenced by his progress reports, report cards, and extracurricular participation. Teachers and paraprofessionals have provided the student assistance in regard to behavior by redirecting and/or modeling appropriate behavior and intervening when the student displays inappropriate behavior.
As previously addressed, prior to the second semester of his senior year the student's schedule focused on meeting the academic requirements for graduation. The student's IEPs developed in December 2002 and in January 2003 have included job exploration and experiences. The district reported that to date, the student has been involved in five job shadowing opportunities and one work experience with at least four more opportunities scheduled before the end of the school year. In addition, the district is in the process of completing the three-year reevaluation for the student and has included recommendations from the UW-Stout evaluation. The evaluation included information on vocational interests and capabilities, independent living and adaptive skill development which the district will incorporate into the IEP currently being developed.
- Whether the district, during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years, provided parents with a notice of response to an activity requested by a parent pertaining to: AT evaluation, academic evaluation, physical therapy (PT) evaluation, speech and language (S/L) evaluation, 1:1 aide, positive behavior intervention plan (BIP), ESY, and functional behavior assessment.
The district acknowledges receiving requests from the parents for each of the activities listed above. Evaluations for AT, academic, PT, and S/L were included as part of the student's three-year reevaluation. An evaluation conducted by UW-Stout (final report March 11, 2003) included information on AT. Academic testing was completed by the district on February 17, 2003; PT evaluation was completed on February 10, 2003; and S/L evaluations were completed on February 20, 2003. Concerning a BIP, the district responded that the student's IEPs addressed behavior concerns. The district noted that the student does not present serious behaviors that consistently interfere with his educational performance but did provide evidence indicating behavior analysis was conducted using teacher interview sheets. One-to-one paraprofessional assistance was provided for the student in three of his four academic classes and on all work experience visits. The issue of ESY had not been raised until recently. The district responded that the student's educational performance consistently indicated steady academic progress; therefore ESY was not considered at previous IEP team meetings. ESY was discussed as part of the mediation process and is being considered to provide services the student missed as a result of repeated suspensions from physical education.
- Whether the district, during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years, failed to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) by repeatedly suspending the child from physical education class.
The district acknowledges that the student was removed from P.E. class for a total of 18 class periods and will offer compensatory education for the student. The district will submit evidence that it has provided this service once concluded. Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must submit a proposed corrective action plan to the department to ensure that staff understand their obligation to determine whether removals exceeding ten days in a school year constitute a change in placement.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 5/2/03
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy