On July 3, 2008, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXX against the Watertown Unified School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The complaint involved three students, who will be referred to as Students A, B, and C. The issues are identified and addressed below.
- Did the district properly respond to the parent’s referrals for special education evaluations?
Referrals for special education evaluations must be in writing, include the name of the child, and the reasons the person making the referral believes the student is a student with a disability. Districts are responsible for informing parents about the district’s referral procedures. Within 15 business days of receiving a referral, the district must send the student’s parents a request for consent to evaluate the student or notice that no additional data are necessary. The parent spoke with an administrator in January 2008 and on March 4, 2008 and verbally requested a special education evaluation for Student A. The district employee did not explain the district’s referral procedures, including the requirement that referrals must be in writing. The district received written referrals from the parent for all three students on April 10, 2008. On April 11, 2008, the district sent the parent requests for consent to evaluate all three children.
Although district staff properly responded to the parent’s written referrals for special education evaluations, staff failed to inform the parent about the district’s referral procedures. Within thirty days, the district must submit proposed corrective action to ensure staff informs parents about the district’s referral procedures. Within 30 days the district must convene an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting for Student A to consider whether additional services are necessary for the period February 2008 through May 2008.
- Did the district properly determine whether the students were eligible for special education?
The IEP team must determine whether a child is a child with a disability within 60 days of receipt of the parent’s consent to evaluate the student. Evaluation is the responsibility of the IEP team. The IEP team includes the parent. As part of an initial evaluation, the team must review existing data and determine if additional data is needed. In conducting the evaluation, the IEP team must use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information. The district received the parent’s consent to evaluate all three students on May 6, 2008. Student A was determined eligible for special education under other health impairment (OHI) criteria by an IEP team on June 6, 2008. Eligibility determinations for Student B and Student C were made at IEP team meetings on June 9, 2008. Student B was determined not eligible for special education under OHI criteria. Student C was determined not eligible for special education under OHI and emotional behavioral disability (EBD) criteria. Documentation submitted by the parent and the district show the IEP teams reviewed existing data and obtained additional data as required. The IEP teams used a variety of assessment tools and strategies in making their determinations. The IEP teams considered all of the relevant information and properly applied the eligibility criteria. All members of the IEP team, including the parent, were permitted to share their views and discuss alternatives at the team meetings.
IEP teams must include the parents of the student, a regular education teacher, a special education teacher with recent training or experience related to the student’s known or suspected area of special education needs, and a representative of the district. A parent may request the district appoint additional persons with special expertise to the IEP team at district expense. A district is not required to appoint additional persons to the IEP team, however, if it decides not to do so it is obligated to provide the parent with written notice of its decision. The notice must contain, among other things, a statement of the procedural safeguard protections the parent and student have under federal special education law, and the reasons for the decision. On April 24, 2008, the parent requested the district appoint a specific medical expert to the IEP teams for Student A and Student B. On April 25, 2008, the district informed the parent it was denying the parent’s request and the reasons for the decision. The district’s reply did not contain a procedural safeguards statement.
With the exception of the missing procedural safeguards statement, the district properly made the eligibility determinations. Within 30 days, the district must submit proposed corrective action to ensure it informs parents about procedural safeguards when responding to an action requested by the parent.
- Did the district properly obtain consent from the parent before conducting evaluation activities?
A district must obtain informed consent from the student’s parent before conducting an initial evaluation of the student. The parent provided consent to evaluate all three students on May 6, 2008. The district did not conduct evaluation activities for any of the students prior to May 6, 2008. The district properly obtained consent from the parent prior to conducting evaluation activities.
- Did the district provide a copy of the student’s IEP to the parent?
The district must provide a copy of the student’s IEP to the parent prior to the implementation of the special education program. The IEP was to be implemented on the first day of school of the 2008-2009 school year. In a letter to the department dated July 8, 2008, the parent indicated she had received a copy of Student A’s IEP. The district timely provided a copy of the student’s IEP to the parent.
- Did the district properly respond to a parent request for an independent education evaluation (IEE)?
A parent has a right to an IEE at public expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the public agency. When a parent requests an IEE, the district must provide the parent information about where an IEE may be obtained and district criteria applicable for IEEs. Furthermore, if the parent requests an IEE, the district must, without unnecessary delay, either provide the IEE at public expense or initiate a due process hearing. On June 10, 2008, the parent sent an email to the district requesting an IEE for Student C by a particular agency. The district contacted the agency on July 9, 2008, and was informed that the agency did not conduct the type of evaluation requested. The district then compiled a list of potential evaluators. On August 7, 2008, the district sent the parent a letter offering to provide an IEE at public expense, and enclosed a copy of the list and district IEE criteria. On August 29, 2008, the parent informed the district that she had selected an evaluator. Although the district attempted to arrange an IEE by contacting the agency, it did not respond to the parent until approximately two months later, which was too long of a delay. Within 30 days, the district must submit a corrective action plan to ensure it promptly responds to a parent request for an IEE. Furthermore, the district must submit documentation to the department upon completion of the IEE process.
This concludes our review of this complaint.
//signed CST 9/2/08
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy