IDEA Complaint Decision 08-074

On September 2, 2008, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from xxxxx against the Unnamed School District. The issues raised in the complaint were whether the district, during the 2007-2008 school year:

  • Properly changed a student’s placement;
  • Properly implemented the student’s individualized education program (IEP) regarding provision of related services, supplementary aids and services, program modifications or supports;
  • Properly implemented the student’s behavioral intervention plan;
  • Properly developed the student’s IEP, including considered and determined positive behavioral interventions, strategies and supports;
  • Properly afforded the parents an opportunity to participate in IEP team meetings, including scheduling IEP team meetings at a mutually agreed on time and place;
  • Ensured staff responsible for implementing the student’s IEP were informed of their specific responsibilities;
  • Ensured that the student receive required services after the 10th day of suspension during the school year;
  • Properly documented IEP team decisions;
  • Improperly disclosed information from the student’s education records;
  • Properly responded to a parent’s request to amend student records; and
  • Properly responded to a parent’s request for pupil record information.

On July 25, 2008, the complainant requested a due process hearing related to the first eight issues. Federal law requires the department to set aside any part of the complaint that is being addressed in the due process hearing until the conclusion of the hearing. Consequently, on September 8, the department set aside the investigation of those eight issues until the completion of the hearing process. On October 7, the hearing officer dismissed the due process complaint. The department will proceed with a full investigation of the complaint and will issue a decision on the first eight issues of the complaint by December 8, 2008. The three complaint issues which were not part of the due process hearing and which are addressed in this decision are whether the district, during the 2007-2008 school year, improperly disclosed information from the student’s education records, properly responded to a parent’s request to amend student records, and properly responded to a parent’s request for pupil record information.

  • Whether the district improperly disclosed information from the student’s education records.

Pupil records are all records relating to an individual student which are maintained by a local education agency. Pupil records maintained by a public school must be confidential, within limited exceptions. These exceptions include disclosure to individuals employed by the school district the pupil attends who are required to be DPI-certified and other school district officials who have been determined by the school board to have legitimate educational interests, including safety. If a school board identifies a school liaison officer as a school official, access to the record is limited to when the officer has a legitimate educational interest in the record.

In March, April, and May 2008, on four separate occasions, the student was reported to the school police liaison officer. On May 30, 2008, the parents wrote a letter to the school to make a discrimination complaint, to describe conflicts with the school police liaison officer, to ask about the safety of the student, and to discuss concerns about an upcoming IEP team meeting. On June 3, district staff informed the parents’ the letter would be shared with the school liaison officer. Staff interviews confirm the parent’s letter was discussed and given to the officer. The May 30 letter was an educational record because it included information directly related to the student. In order to provide pupil record information to a police-school liaison, parental consent is required unless one of the stated exceptions apply. The school district identified the school liaison officer as a school official and determined the police liaison had a legitimate educational, including safety, interest. The district did not improperly disclose information from the student’s education record.

  • Whether the district properly responded to a parent’s request to amend student records.

If a parent believes information in pupil records is inaccurate, misleading, or violates the privacy or other rights of the child, the parent may request the school district to amend the information. If the district decides not to amend the information, it must inform the parent of the refusal and advise the parent of the right to a hearing to review the district’s decision. If, as a result of the hearing, the district decides the information is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the privacy or other rights of the child, it must amend the information accordingly and inform the parent in writing. If the district decides the information is not inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the privacy or other rights of the child, it must inform the parent of the right to place in the records a statement commenting on the information or stating the reasons for disagreeing with the district’s decision. The parent’s statement must be maintained by the district as part of the child’s pupil records as long as the contested information is maintained by the district.

During a suspension hearing on March 13, 2008, the parent requested the disciplinary notations from March 4, 5, and 6 be removed from the child’s records. The district agreed to remove the notations from the student’s records. In September 2008, the parent viewed a copy of the student’s record. The record no longer included information about March 4 and 5; however, the March 6 incident was still included. Although the district agreed to and amended the student’s record regarding the first two incidents, it failed to do so regarding the third. The district should have either removed the incident or informed the parent in writing of the refusal and advised the parent of the right to a hearing to review the district’s decision. The district must respond to this request within 15 days from the date of this decision. The district must also, within 30 days from the date of this decision, develop a corrective action plan to ensure district staff properly respond to amended record requests.

  • Whether the district properly responded to a parent’s request for pupil record information.

When parents request information from their child’s education record, school districts must produce it for review and inspection within a reasonable time and, in either event, within 45 days of the request.

On June 10, 2008, the parent requested written copies of "all investigative evidence" related to the district’s investigation of a discrimination complaint initiated by the parent. On June 13, district staff responded to the parent and refused to comply with the parent’s request. District staff determined the investigative evidence the parent requested pertained to interviews conducted with other students. Parents have the right to inspect and review information relating only to their child. A school district should redact the names of, or information easily traceable to, any other student mentioned in a student’s education records before providing a parent access to the student’s education records. In cases where joint records cannot be easily redacted or the information segregated out, the school district may satisfy a request for access by informing the parent about the contents of the record. The district improperly responded to the parent’s request when it informed the parent it would not provide any information relating to the requested materials.

Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district must develop a corrective action plan to review the parents request for investigative evidence on the discrimination complaint. The district should attempt to provide the information to the parent in redacted form, however, if that is not possible, it must provide the parent information about the contents of the record.

This concludes our review of this portion of the complaint.

//signed CST 11/3/08
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

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