IDEA Complaint Decision 08-069

On August 7, 2008, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues, related to the 2007-2008 school year, are addressed below.

  • Whether the district properly implemented the student’s individualized education program (IEP) regarding provision of special education, supplemental aids and services, and consultation between staff.

In September 2007, the student began the 2007-2008 school year at the district school he attended the previous year. On October 31, 2007, an IEP team meeting was held to review and revise the student’s IEP, develop an annual IEP and determine placement. The child’s mother attended the IEP team meeting. The IEP team determined the student’s special education services would be speech and language services from the school-based speech and language pathologist two times per week in thirty minute sessions in the special education classroom. In addition, the team determined supplemental aids and services in the regular education classroom would include extended time to complete any written assignment and a scribe "to record the student’s ideas and thoughts so he can then write them in complete thoughts to complete a written assignment." The IEP team determined the student’s placement would continue at the student’s current school.

On October 16, 2007, the child’s mother requested her son be reevaluated due to concerns about his illegible writing and comprehension skills. On December 18, 2007, an IEP team meeting was held to review and revise the student’s IEP, conduct a reevaluation to determine eligibility and determine placement. The child’s mother attended the IEP team meeting. The IEP team determined the child meets the criteria for specific learning disabilities as well as speech and language impairment. The IEP team increased the student’s special education services with specialized instruction in writing thirty minutes five times per week in the regular education classroom in addition to speech and language services two times per week in thirty minute sessions in the special education classroom. The related service of occupational therapy forty-five minutes once a week was also added. Ten supplementary aids and services to be provided in the regular classroom include: (1) a formal handwriting program for cursive writing, (2) a scribe/note taker, (3) a portable word processor, (4) graphic organizer for creating an outline, (5) computer to organize information and check spelling, (6) practice keyboarding skills, (7) provide notes or outlines, (8) use of graph paper, (9) reduce copying aspects of work, and (10) consistent use of a handheld spell checker. In addition, program modifications or supports for school personnel requires consultation between the speech pathologist, special education and classroom teacher ten minutes once a week.

Speech and language and occupational therapy services were consistently provided to the student. Between December 18, 2007, and June 16, 2008, there were 106 days of school. A substitute special education teacher was needed on 22 days when the special education teacher was not available due to medical leave. On five of these days, a special education substitute teacher was not available. Although the occupational therapist and regular education teacher continued to provide the child writing instruction, special education instruction in writing thirty minutes five times per week were not always provided by a special education teacher. The student participated full-time in the general curriculum. Although a specialized cursive writing program different than the program used by the regular education students was used with the child, the school does not have a specific writing curriculum, and a variety of writing programs and materials are used for writing instruction.

The supplementary aids and services: a formal handwriting program for cursive writing; a portable word processor; graphic organizer for creating an outline; computer to organize information and check spelling; practice keyboarding skills; reduce copying aspects of work; and consistent use of a handheld spell checker to be provided in the regular classroom were provided to the student consistently or were available in the regular education classroom for the child to use. On some occasions, the child would choose not to use the supplementary aid or service. The supplementary aids and services: a scribe/note taker; notes or outlines; and use of graph paper were sometimes provided to the student but not consistently in all regular education classes. The program support for school personnel, consultation between the speech pathologist, special education and classroom teacher ten minutes once a week, occurred between the speech pathologist and classroom teacher each week. Although not required by the statement of program support for school personnel, consultation between the occupational therapist and regular education teacher occurred weekly. However, the consultation did not occur weekly between the regular education and the special education teachers.

The district must ensure students receive required special education services, supplementary aids and services and school personnel receive program modifications or supports as described in students’ IEPs. The district did not properly implement the student’s IEP during the 2007-2008 school year regarding special education specialized instruction in writing; the supplementary aids and services of a scribe/note taker; providing notes or outlines; and use of graph paper. In addition, consultation between the special education and classroom teacher was not consistently implemented. On September 22, an IEP team meeting was held to review and revise the student’s IEP, determine placement and determine whether additional services are necessary due to the district’s failure to implement the student’s IEP. The child’s mother and uncle, serving as an advocate, attended the IEP team meeting. On September 29, 2008, the district provided the department a copy of the student’s IEP. Therefore, no further child specific corrective action is required at this time. The district is required to develop a plan to ensure the IEPs for all children with disabilities at the school are properly implemented. A copy of the plan must be provided to the department by November 4, 2008.

  • Whether the district properly responded to a parent’s request for an IEP team meeting.

On June 5, 2008, the child’s parent requested a facilitated IEP team meeting to be held in September. On June 9, the special services supervisor replied to the parent’s email stating that he also wished to hold a facilitated IEP team meeting as soon as it could be set up. On June 13, the special services supervisor replied to the parent’s email providing her a phone number to start the facilitated IEP team process. On July 3, the special education leadership liaison (SELL) sent an email to the parent asking if the IEP facilitator had contacted the parent to set up the IEP team meeting. On July 10, the child’s parent sent an email requesting a date in the early part of September for an IEP team meeting. On July 11, the parent sent an email requesting the date teachers would return for the 2008-2009 school year. On July 14, the SELL sent an email to the parent informing her that she was contacting the student’s school lead teacher to determine the date the teachers would return. On July 20, the parent sent an email requesting information on the status of determining a date for an IEP team meeting. On July 24, the child’s parent informed the district SELL that any weekday in September after 3:00 PM would work for an IEP team meeting. On August 4 the SELL sent an email to the parent stating they may need to wait until after the teachers return to set the date for an IEP team meeting in September. On August 4, the child’s parent replied by email to the SELL stating any weekday in September after 3:00 PM would work for an IEP team meeting, and she believed the district was dragging its heels in scheduling an IEP team meeting. The parent wrote: "You, (the supervisor of compliance and monitoring, special services supervisor and the lead teacher) were told on 6/5/08 that I wanted an IEP set up in September." ... "So me wanting the IEP date set up was no secret to any of you, I made it very clear that I wanted one in September at the June 5th Mediation." On August 25 and 27, the parent was sent an IEP team meeting notice for an IEP team meeting to be held on September 17, 2008. On September 15, the parent was sent a revised IEP team meeting notice for an IEP team meeting to be held on September 17, 2008. In addition, on September 15, the revised notice was delivered to parent’s home by a school social worker and a notice was sent home with a sibling of the student with a disability. The September 17 meeting was held and lasted for six and one-half hours. The IEP team meeting continued on September 22 for an additional two hours. The parents of a child with a disability have the right to request an IEP team meeting at any time, and districts must grant any reasonable parent request. If the district refuses to convene an IEP meeting, the district must provide written notice to the parents of the refusal, including an explanation of why the district has determined that conducting the meeting is not necessary. On June 5, 2008, the parent requested an IEP team meeting to be held in September. On September 17, 2008, an IEP team meeting was conducted. Although there were multiple communications between the parent and the district and the date of the meeting was not established until September, a September IEP team meeting was held as requested by the child’s parent. The district properly responded to the parent regarding a request for an IEP team meeting to be held in September.

  • Whether the district properly responded to a parent’s concerns regarding student progress toward annual goals.

The complainants maintain the district did not provide sufficient information about the student’s progress toward IEP goals and participation in the general education program and did not provide the parents work to support the progress reports. The IEP listed IEP progress reports provided with school report cards as the procedure for informing parents. The procedures for measuring the student’s progress were work samples, observations and student grades. The speech and language goal was measured through informal assessment, observation and tallies. The parent received progress reports as noted in the IEP. In addition, progress information was provided to the parent through report cards, IEP conferences, parent teacher conferences, the use of a daily communication planner, and weekly work samples sent home. Progress in the general education curriculum and on IEP goals was reviewed and discussed at IEP team meetings and parent conferences. The district appropriately provided information about the student’s progress toward IEP goals and participation in the general education curriculum and environment.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 10/6/08
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

Dec/jfd

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