IDEA Complaint Decision 07-081

On November 15, 2007, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Racine Unified School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2007-2008 school year:

  • Took proper steps to ensure the parent of a child with a disability participated in an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting;
  • Timely reviewed the student’s IEP and conducted a reevaluation;
  • Properly determined and documented the use of a seating arrangement for a child with a disability and properly implemented its use;
  • Properly determined and provided required transportation services for the child; and
  • Improperly excluded the child from a swimming activity.

A school district must take steps to ensure the parents of a child with a disability are present, or offered the opportunity to participate, at each meeting required under special education law. A school district must schedule such a meeting at a mutually agreed on time and place. The district scheduled an IEP team meeting on October 11, 2007, which was a date the parent had informed the district she could attend. However, after the date was scheduled, the parent was unable to meet at the arranged time, and the parent indicated a morning time was preferable. The district then scheduled another meeting on the morning of November 15, 2007. The parent participated in this meeting by telephone.

The district took steps to ensure parent participation by consulting with the parent as to available dates. However, in this case, when the parent was unable to participate in the October 11 meeting, the district should have continued with the meeting because the student’s prior IEP ended on October 12, 2007. Because the district waited until November 15, there was a period of time when the student did not have a current IEP in effect. The district should have arranged a meeting earlier in the fall to prevent this type of situation from occurring. An earlier meeting date could have accommodated a cancellation and still allowed for another meeting date to be arranged to include the parent without creating a lapse in IEPs.

The complaint further states that the student’s reevaluation is overdue. An IEP team must conduct a reevaluation at least once every three years unless the child’s parent and the school district agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary. A child must also be reevaluated if the child’s parent or teacher requests a reevaluation, except that a child will not be reevaluated more than once a year unless the child’s parent and school district agree one is warranted. The date of the student’s initial evaluation was October 12, 2004. On April 30, 2007, the parent and school district agreed a three year evaluation was not necessary. However, during the November 15, 2007, IEP team meeting the parent requested the student be reevaluated. This request is documented in the student’s IEP. A reevaluation did not occur after this request was made, but the district has begun the revaluation process as of the date of this decision.

In addition, that complaint states the student, in the fall of 2007, was placed in a Rifton chair and a seat belt used. The student is a child with autism. The Rifton chair is designed to provide adaptive seating because the child needs postural or stabilizing support due to an orthopedic impairment. It is not intended and it is not appropriate to be used, as it was in this case, to prevent mobile children from leaving their seat. In October 2007, the department began an investigation into the district’s use of Rifton chairs. As a result of this investigation, the department ordered district-wide corrective action, which is outlined in the November 20, 2007, letter enclosed with this decision. Since the department’s investigation, the Rifton chairs have been removed from the student’s classroom, a Rifton chair is no longer being used with this student, and the student’s IEP has been revised to reflect this.

In September 2007, the teacher changed the student’s schedule from a full-day to a half-day without conducting an IEP meeting as required. The teacher informed the parent the student would be provided transportation, as required by the student’s IEP. However, the student did not receive transportation for several weeks because of the transportation company’s delay in processing the change in transportation. On November 15, 2007, the IEP team determined the half-day schedule was appropriate, and the student’s IEP was revised to reflect this change. Transportation is currently provided in accordance with the student’s IEP.

Finally, the complaint states the student was prevented from participating in a swimming activity on one occasion in September of 2007. Swimming is an activity that occurs at another location within the district. The teacher believed the student’s behavior that day was such that it would not be safe for him to participate in the activity or be transported to the other location. The department does not find a violation with regard to this issue.

With regard to student specific correction, the district must within 30 days from the date of this decision, conduct an IEP team meeting to consider whether additional services are required because of the delay in providing transportation, because of the reduction in schedule without an IEP team meeting and determination, and because of the delay in developing a current IEP. After the reevaluation is completed, the IEP must also consider whether additional services are required because of the delay in conducting the reevaluation. With regard to district wide corrective action, the district must within 30 days from the date of this decision, develop a corrective action plan to ensure students have a current IEP in effect, reevaluations occur in accordance with state and federal law, changes in schedule are made through the IEP team process, and transportation is properly provided.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 1/14/08
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

Dec/pmw

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