IDEA Complaint Decision 09-011

On February 13, 2009, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Greenfield School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, in February 2009, properly implemented the student’s individualized education program (IEP) and improperly placed the student in time-out.

The student’s IEP provides, in part, for daily specialized instruction in reading and writing, and the location specified is the special education classroom. The student receives this instruction during two 45 minute periods referred to as the “language arts block.” In early February 2009, the student’s special education teacher informed the students in the special education classroom that beginning the following day the class would be combined with a regular education class to work on a nonfiction unit. The combined classroom would be team-taught by the special education teacher and the regular education teacher, and it would last for approximately six weeks. When this was announced, the student expressed concerns about the arrangement, and the teacher informed her they were going to try the combined classroom for a few days and then discuss how the arrangement was working.

The next day the special education teacher was not present and the student refused to go to the regular education classroom. The substitute teacher placed the student in the hallway outside of the regular education classroom and gave the student the same activity that was being completed by students in the combined classroom. At no time during the school day did the substitute teacher refuse to work with the student, although at times the teacher was working with other students and was not immediately available.

The following school day, the special education teacher was present, but the student again refused to attend the regular education classroom. The special education teacher took the student to a different special education classroom and asked her to sit at a desk in an area in the back of the classroom. The area has file cabinets on two sides and a wall on the third side. There is no door or any type of closure on the fourth side, so there is access in and out of the area at all times.

The student was asked to sit in the area because she was being disruptive. The special education teacher instructed the student on the assignment for that day and then allowed the student to work independently. The classroom was supervised by another special education teacher, and the student was told by this teacher she could work outside of this area when she calmed down and when she could talk to the teacher about the problem. The student did calm down, but she did not talk to the teacher about the problem. At the end of the block period, the student left the area to turn in the assignment, and the student went to her next period class. After five school days, the teachers decided to discontinue the combined classroom, in part, because of difficulties with planning and organization.

The proposed six week change of location for the student’s special education instruction was not consistent with the student’s IEP. The student refused to move to the regular education classroom, became disruptive and was separated from her classmates. Although the district’s response to the student’s disruptive behavior was not in violation of special education law, it was a result of the district’s failure to properly implement the student’s IEP.

The parent requested an IEP team meeting regarding the incident, and the school district appropriately responded by conducting an IEP team meeting. As a result of this meeting, behavior was identified as a special factor and positive behavioral interventions, strategies and supports were included in the IEP. The interventions address, among other things, when there is a change in the student’s daily routine.

On March 3, 2009, the complainant filed a supplement alleging on March 2, 2009 the special education class was again combined with the regular education class to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday. The student did not attend school on that day. This was not a situation where the district improperly changed the location at which special education services were delivered. Rather, students were given the option of attending the celebration or remaining in the special education classroom for classroom instruction. Furthermore, it was a limited occasion.

Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district must submit a corrective action plan to the department to ensure the student’s IEPs are implemented with regard to location of services.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 4/8/09
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