On October 20, 2006, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Royall School District. This is the departments decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, between July 1, 2006, and October 23, 2006:
- Improperly changed the amount of speech and language services to be provided to a child with a disability; and
- Provided the amount of speech and language services required in the students individualized education program (IEP).
On April 19, 2006, an IEP team meeting was held for a student with significant receptive and expressive language delays. The IEP provides for language therapy of 60 minutes per week in the speech room.
On July 28, 2006, the parents received a letter from the district indicating staff had reviewed their childs IEP relative to current speech and language staff caseloads. The letter stated that careful analysis of the students specific IEP goals caused the district to direct the students speech and language pathologist to collaborate with the classroom teacher to facilitate a transfer of responsibility for providing language development from the speech and language pathologist to a real life setting. It further stated this change could be facilitated by phone and an IEP team meeting was not necessary for minor changes under new state and federal law. Another letter was sent that same day to several district staff also informing them of the speech and language program review. The letter requested the school staff to contact the parents and discuss who would be responsible for the speech and language services for the student. During the course of the investigation, the department became aware of other students whose parents were sent the same July 28, 2006, letter.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004 provides that the students IEP team is responsible for determining the services that are needed for the student to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). This includes determining the type of service, as well as the amount and location of services. While IDEA 2004 allows for a member of the IEP team to be excused from an IEP team meeting, both the parent and the public agency must agree in writing that the attendance of the member is not necessary. IDEA 2004 also permits changes to an IEP without a meeting if the parent and district agree a meeting is not necessary.
The actions the school district described in its July 28, 2006, letter to parents would have bypassed the necessary notice and process for both the reevaluation of individual student needs as well as for determining a change of service without an IEP team meeting. The district did not in fact carry out the actions proposed in the July 28, 2006, letter. However, the speech and language pathologist who originally was to provide services to the student, as well as to the other students, went on leave at the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year. As a result, none of the students have received speech and language services from the beginning of the school year. On October 2, 2006, the parents received another letter from the district informing them that the current speech and language pathologist was on an extended leave of absence and would not be able to perform her duties for up to twelve weeks. The district stated that it would stand behind the IEPs as written and would offer compensatory services when the speech and language pathologist returned.
Each public agency must ensure that as soon as possible following the development of the IEP, special education and related services are made available to the student in accordance with the students IEP. The district did not provide the amount of speech and language services required in the students IEP.
As part of developing a corrective action plan, and within 45 days of the date of this decision, the district must:
- Reconvene an IEP team meeting for each of the students affected to determine the services needed as a result of not providing speech and language services from the beginning of the school year;
- Submit to the department a copy of the IEPs developed for each student, including a cover page that shows who participated at this meeting;
- Establish and submit a plan for providing needed speech and language services to the students that may be needed as a result of the determination at the IEP team meeting;
- Submit final documentation to the department that any needed services have been completed;
- Participate in a speech and language program review conducted by appropriate Department of Public Instruction staff; and
- Submit a plan to ensure all relevant staff are trained on the appropriate use of the new provisions related to excusing an IEP team member from attending an IEP team meeting and changing an IEP without a meeting.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed 12/14/06 SJP
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy