IDEA Complaint Decision 03-058

On December 23, 2003, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Appleton Area School District. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, between May and December 2003:

  • Responded properly to the parents' requests for progress notes regarding their child's progress and for their child to receive extended school year services in 2003;
  • Provided required assistive technology services to the child; and
  • Ensured that the student's educational assistant was properly trained in the use of an assistive technology device required by the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The parents maintain they requested in writing on November 17, 2003, a report of their child's progress toward IEP goals in speech therapy. They state progress reports were not provided during May through December, 2003. On November 21, the district responded to the parents in a letter indicating the methods used four times per year to inform them of their child's progress toward her IEP goals including the home-school journal, written progress reports, direct contacts, telephone conversations, parent-teacher conferences, and IEP team meetings. The district offered to convene an IEP team meeting to review and discuss the child's progress and a meeting was held on January 15, 2004. The district provided the department with copies of the child's written progress reports for the previous and current school years. In addition, the speech therapist stated that progress was reported to the parents through a home-school journal, parent-teacher conferences, written reports, frequent and direct parent and staff contact, and two IEP team meetings. The department concludes the district responded to the parents' request for their child's progress toward her annual goals through written progress reports and other modes of communication four times per year as indicated on the child's IEPs. The district also provided an opportunity to convene an IEP team meeting to discuss the student's progress.

The parents allege they requested extended school year (ESY) speech therapy services for the 2003 summer at the February 8, 2003, IEP team meeting, and it was not considered. The mother stated the IEP team made the decision based on the child not receiving academics and, therefore, could not receive ESY for speech. The district stated the IEP team discussed and considered ESY when it was requested by the parents. The IEP team determined the child would not need ESY because the child would not regress in skills due to the provision of outside private services during the summer. The department concludes the district discussed and considered the child's eligibility for ESY services.

The parents assert the district did not provide the required assistive technology services to their child for the 2003-2004 school year because the mother programmed the Gemini device for her child rather than the school staff. The district staff understood that the mother wanted to program the device and took over programming the Gemini once the parent stopped. The mother also maintains the communication board was not being used during this time. The speech therapist stated during an interview that all assistive technology services in the IEPs were implemented including the Gemini communication device with access to Speaking Dynamically Pro software, trial with voice output communication devices with key guard, and a variety of low-tech augmentative communication such as picture communication symbols, communication boards, gestures, head nods, and making choices from extended hands. Further, a variety of augmentative communication formats were used for the communication board to meet the child's needs during the course of a school day and when the Gemini was not working properly. The department concludes the district did provide the assistive technology services as required by the child's May through December IEPs.

The parents contend the educational assistant was not properly trained in the use of assistive technology devices required by the student's IEPs. During a phone interview, the educational assistant stated she had been trained by district staff members to operate the Gemini computer and other assistive technology. The mother and speech therapist programmed the Gemini computer, which was not a duty assigned to the educational aide. The district asserts the educational assistant was provided with assistive technology training through the facilitation of two speech therapists and other staff members, and maintains the educational assistant is able to use the Gemini and other augmentative devices. The department concludes the district provided training to the educational assistant for the assistive technology items indicated in the child's May through December IEPs.

This concludes our review of this complaint, which we are closing.

//signed CST 3/16/04
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

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