IDEA Complaint Decision 10-046

On June 10, 2010, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against Milwaukee Public Schools. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2009-2010 school year, properly changed placement for a child with a disability, properly responded to the parent’s pupil record request, and properly responded to the parent's request to amend her child's education records.

An individualized education program (IEP) team must determine the special education placement for a child with a disability. The placement decision must be made based on the child's IEP. The district must provide a child's parents or guardian prior written notice whenever the district proposes to initiate or change, or refuses to initiate or change, the educational placement of a child with a disability.

During an interview with the child’s parent, the parent explained her primary concern about changing her child’s placement occurred in March or April 2009 when the principal changed her child’s regular education teacher to another regular education teacher in the same building. Although this would not be a change of placement, this reassignment occurred more than one year prior to June 9, 2010, the date this complaint was received. Under federal regulations, the department is not allowed to investigate a complaint which occurred more than one year prior to the date the complaint was made. During the 2009-2010 school year, four IEP team meetings were conducted to review and revise the student’s IEP and determine continuing placement. The child’s parent attended the meetings. During one of these meetings, in October 2009, the child’s amount of time in special education was reduced. This change was done through an IEP team meeting and properly documented in the IEP. During the 2009-2010 school year, the district properly changed the child’s placement.

Each district must permit parents to inspect and review any education records relating to their children which are collected, maintained, or used by the district. The district must comply with a request without unnecessary delay and before any meeting regarding an IEP, and, in no case, more than 45 days after the request is made.

On March 11, 2010, the child’s parent requested in writing a copy of all of her child’s cumulative records, including a personal file maintained by the principal. On March 17, 2010, an IEP team meeting was held to review and revise the child’s IEP and determine continuing placement. The child’s parent and a parent advocate attended the meeting. At the beginning of the meeting, and during the meeting, the child’s parent requested to look through the student’s cumulative record and the principal’s file. The parent was not given access to the cumulative records until after the meeting, and the records were removed from her before she finished her review. The district did not properly respond to the parent’s pupil record request.

On July 26, 2010, the district sent the child’s parent a letter offering to provide her an opportunity to again inspect and review her child’s cumulative folder and the principal’s personal file. Although the district contends this file is comprised of personal notes not shared with others, the district is willing to make the file available to the parent. The district is directed to follow-up with the parent to permit the parent to inspect and review this information. The district must, within 30 days from the date of this decision, develop a corrective action plan which ensures the district will properly respond to parent’s pupil record request.

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 district amend the information. There is no requirement the request be in writing. 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 a statement in the records commenting on the information or stating the reasons for disagreeing with the district 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 spring 2010, the child’s parent and a parent advocate met with district Department of Parent and Student Services staff to request amendment of her child’s education records, specifically, “Incidents/Notes detail.” The staff did not agree to change the records and did not advise the parent of the right to a hearing to review the district’s decision. The district did not properly respond to the parent’s request because the district did not inform the parent of her right to a hearing to review the district’s decision. The district must, within 30 days from the date of this decision, develop a corrective action plan that ensures the district will properly respond to parent requests for amending pupil records. In addition, the district must respond to the parent’s request following the required procedures as described above. The district must submit documentation to the department by September 30, 2010, demonstrating this has occurred.

All noncompliance identified above must be corrected as soon as possible, but in no case more than one year from the date of this decision. This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 8/5/10
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