On October 12, 2005, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX and XXXXX against the School District of Waupaca. This is the department's decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2004-2005 school year, ensured that it identified and evaluated a child in need of special education services and properly responded to a parent's April 2005 request for an independent educational evaluation (IEE) for her child.
During the fall of 2004 the student was receiving additional regular education assistance to address learning needs identified by district staff during previous school years. In late October 2004, the student's classroom teacher reached the belief that the student has a disability requiring the provision of special education services. During an interview with department staff, the teacher detailed the student's learning needs which led her to this conclusion. Her belief was based in part on the limited progress the student achieved with the additional regular education assistance and on the student's performance to that date. It also was based on discussions with other staff familiar with the student, including his classroom teacher from the previous year.
District staff met with the parents in January to review the student's response to the continuing assistance in regular education. District staff maintain that the parents did not express during the meeting concerns about the services being provided to the child. It was not until March 2005 that the student's classroom teacher completed a referral to determine whether the student is a child with a disability. In late May 2005, the student was determined to be a child with a disability and the district developed an individualized education program (IEP) to address his special education needs. In making these determinations, the IEP team reviewed private test results conducted at the parent's request in January 2005. In April 2005, the parent submitted a request for an IEE at public expense and requested reimbursement for the cost of the private clinic evaluations conducted in January. In early May 2005, the district denied the parent's request for an IEE because the parent did not disagree with a special education evaluation which had been completed by the district at the time of the private testing.
Because the district had not completed an evaluation of the student at the time of the private testing, the parents are not entitled to an IEE at public expense and the district is not required to reimburse them for the private testing. However, a school district must identify, locate, and evaluate all resident children with disabilities who are in need of special education and related services and make available to each child with a disability a free appropriate public education. A teacher employed by the school district is required to refer a student for a special education evaluation if he or she reasonably believes the student may be a child with a disability. In this case, the student's classroom teacher believed in the fall of 2004 that this student had a disability. The teacher wanted to refer the student for a special education evaluation. However, it was not until March 2005 that a referral was initiated and not until May when the student was determined to be a child with a disability. The district did not properly identify, locate, and evaluate a child with a disability and make available a free appropriate public education to the child.
Within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district must conduct an IEP team meeting to determine whether the student requires additional services as a result of the delay in identifying the student as a child with a disability. Further, within 30 days of receiving this decision, the district must submit proposed corrective measures to ensure a teacher who reasonably believes a child has a disability completes a referral for a special education evaluation.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 12/16/05
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy