IDEA Complaint Decision 12-038

On July 31, 2012, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Elmbrook School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2011-12 school year, properly identified, located, and evaluated a child with a disability.

The student was open-enrolled into the Elmbrook School District during the 2011-12 school year, but is no longer enrolled in the district. Documentation received from the district noted the parent reported the student had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on the student’s open enrollment application to the district.

On October 15, 2011, the student suffered a concussion. The student was under a physician’s treatment and took medication for the concussion. On November 15, 2011, the student had surgery that required pain medication. During spring 2012, the student was habitually truant. The parent states district staff should have referred the student for a special education evaluation as a result of the student’s deteriorating academic performance and truancy, which the parent states were due to the student’s concussion and treating medications, the surgery and treating medications, and ADHD. The information submitted by the parent includes a statement from a physician that the pupil was to be excused for absences following the injury and the student should not participate in gym or athletic activities until medically cleared; however, the physician’s orders specifically stated that the student had no limitations in the academic environment as a result of the concussion. District staff had several meetings between January and June 2012 with the parent to discuss the student’s medical conditions and academic performance.

During the school year, the student’s counselor determined the student was at-risk due to the student’s academic performance, and the student was provided extra supports. Additionally, teachers met weekly to monitor and discuss progress. In spring 2012, due to the student’s credit deficiencies, the district began to look at more intensive supports to assist the student in obtaining credits to meet graduation requirements. The student’s open enrollment was rescinded in June 2012. The parent had a number of conversations with district staff about the student’s academic performance, attendance, and medical conditions. However, the parent had not requested a special education evaluation, nor shared information that led staff to believe the student had a disability that might require special education. In interviews, district staff stated they did not believe the student’s academic or attendance concerns were the result of a disability.

A school district must identify, locate, and evaluate all resident students with disabilities who are in need of special education and related services. In order to carry out this duty, a district must conduct "child find" activities. These activities include procedures directed at licensed educators employed by the district, parents, and non-district professionals who are required under state law to refer a student who they reasonably believe is a student with a disability for a special education evaluation. Each district must establish written procedures for accepting and processing referrals for special education evaluations from these individuals. In addition, a district must annually inform parents and persons required to make referrals about the district’s special education referral procedures.

Although the district properly published the required child find notice within the past year, the district’s current written policies and procedures do not address all state and federal requirements. The district stated staff training regarding state and federal requirements related to the district’s child find obligations and special education referral procedures occurred within the past year; however, the district does not have written procedures for accepting and processing referrals. Staff interviewed during the complaint investigation were aware of their child find obligations. They did not suspect the student’s behavior or academic problems were related to a disability, and, therefore, did not initiate a special education referral. District staff did not explain the process for making a special education referral to the parents because the parent had not expressed concern that the student had a disability and needed special education.

Within 30 days of the date of this decision, the district must submit a proposed corrective action plan to the department for approval to ensure that written policies and procedures for accepting and processing referrals for special education evaluations are in place. Additionally, the proposed corrective action plan should ensure the written policies and procedures are shared with district staff.

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. You may contact Allison Markoski, Special Education Team, at (608) 266-3126 if you have any questions about this decision or for technical assistance.

//signed CST 9/25/2012
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support

Dec/aam

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