IDEA Complaint Decision 09-023

On April 3, 2009 the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Milwaukee Public Schools. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district properly implemented a student’s individualized education program (IEP) between September 2008 and April 2, 2009 with regard to strategies to reduce tension and manage anger.

The IEP in effect at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year includes positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports to address the student’s behavior. These include one-on- one conversations with the student, time in a quiet place to calm down, redirection, positive comments or notes, earned free time, time on the computer, positive phone calls home and opportunities to be teacher helper. The IEP also includes the following behavior goal: “Increase ability to handle anger in appropriate way 3 out of 4 opportunities with the strategies of talking it through with an adult, walking away with teachers’ permission and by taking a personal time out.” The special education services include specialized instruction in social skills for 15 minutes five times per week. The IEP further states the student will be “instructed concurrently in the regular education classroom and in the school setting.” However, district staff did not provide evidence the strategies to reduce tension and manage anger in the student’s IEP were consistently provided. Therefore the department concludes between September 2, 2008 and October 8, 2008, the student’s IEP was not properly implemented with regard to strategies to reduce tension and manage anger.

On October 8, 2008 an IEP team met to review and revise the student’s IEP, develop an annual IEP, and determine continuing placement. The student’s parent did not attend the meeting. However, the student’s grandmother and aunt were in attendance. Positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports to address the student’s behavior included in the October 9, 2008 IEP were described as follows: “Make sure directions are clear and maintain a structured environment. In whole class setting give subtle reminders to gain his attention and keep him on task (yelling upsets him). Praise him for tasks well done and for appropriate behaviors. Offer tangible rewards for tasks he does not find appealing or that are lengthy and require substantial organization for completion, when he finishes them (stickers, notes or calls home, computer time, supplies, treats...). Quiet one-to-one conversation is very helpful for (student’s name).” The IEP also included a behavior goal: “Use agreed upon strategies to reduce tension and manage anger (i.e. walk away, involve classroom teacher, talk about it, request permission to leave the room and report to the assigned contact person) 3 of 4 opportunities.” The special education services included specialized instruction in social skills and anger management skills, 30 minutes one time per week. However, district staff did not provide evidence the above strategies to reduce tension and manage anger in the student’s IEP were consistently provided. Therefore the department concludes between October 8, 2008 and April 2, 2009, the student’s IEP was not properly implemented with regard to strategies to reduce tension and manage anger.

The district is directed to conduct an IEP team meeting to determine if the child should receive additional services due to a failure to implement the child’s IEP. By June 30, 2009, the district must send the department a copy of the child’s IEP with the consideration of additional services documented.

In addition, the district is directed to review the current IEPs of all students with a disability at the school the student attended between September 2, 2008 and April 2, 2009 to ensure all IEPs are being implemented. If any IEPs are not being implemented, the district must conduct IEP team meetings to determine whether additional services are required. By June 30, 2009 the district must send to the department an assurance all IEPs have been reviewed and if necessary IEP team meetings conducted to determine if additional services are needed. By September 30, 2009 the district must provide the department a training agenda and an assurance staff training is provided to special education teachers, school principals, and assistant principals at the student’s September 2, 2008 through April 2, 2009 school of placement to ensure student’s individualized education programs are properly implemented.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 6/2/09
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