On March 28, 2013, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against XXXXX. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2012-13 school year, properly responded to a parent’s request for a special education evaluation.
School districts are required under state and federal special education law to locate, identify, and evaluate all resident students with disabilities who have not graduated from high school with a regular high school diploma. Each district must establish procedures for accepting and processing referrals. All referrals must be in writing and the district must accept and process all referrals submitted to the district. A parent may submit a special education referral to the school district. In the case of divorced parents, with shared educational decision-making, either parent may submit a referral. Upon receipt of a referral, the district must appoint an individualized education program (IEP) team, and the IEP team must conduct a review of existing data to determine what additional data, if any, are needed to complete the evaluation. The student’s parent must be afforded an opportunity to participate in this review. In addition, this review must include not less than one regular education teacher of the child, one special education teacher who has recent training or experience related to the child’s known or suspected area of special education needs, and a local educational agency (LEA) representative. It is not required that the review of existing data occur through an IEP team meeting. Within 15 business days of receiving the referral, the district must send to the student’s parent a request for consent for additional testing or notice that no additional testing is necessary. An IEP team meeting must be conducted to determine eligibility within 60 days after receiving parental consent for evaluation or notifying parents that no additional assessments are needed.
On November 30, 2012, the district received a special education referral from the student’s father. In the referral, the father expressed concerns about the student’s academic achievement and grades. The parent also stated in the letter that he did not believe additional testing was needed. On December 10, 2012, a completed district Referral Form and Notice of Receipt of Referral was sent to the student’s parents. On December 12, 2012, an invitation to a December 20 IEP team meeting to review existing information and determine the need for additional assessments was sent to the student’s parents. Due to a significant snow event on December 20, the meeting was rescheduled to January 10, 2013. The January 10 IEP team meeting included all required IEP team members, including the student’s mother and father. The team reviewed past evaluation materials, current academic grades and considered parent and teacher observations. However, rather than making a determination of what additional data, if any, were needed to complete the evaluation, the IEP team determined that a special education evaluation was not needed. The student’s father believed a special education evaluation was needed with no additional testing and the student’s mother did not believe a special education evaluation was needed. On January 11, 2013, the student’s parents were sent a notice stating an evaluation was not needed at this time. On February 5, 2013, the student’s father was also sent a Notice of Response To an Activity Requested By a Parent denying the father’s request for an initial special education evaluation of his child.
The district did not properly respond to the parent’s request for a special education evaluation. The district must accept and process all initial referrals submitted to the district. In the case of divorced parents with joint custody, either parent may request the evaluation and grant consent for evaluation. Consent of both parents is not required to proceed with an evaluation or initial placement. A district must proceed with a special education evaluation when it has consent from one parent and must conduct and complete the evaluation within the required timelines.
On May 14, 2013, in an email, the father reiterated his request that a special education evaluation be conducted. He also stated that he did not believe additional testing was need. As corrective action, the district must conduct an expedited special education evaluation, and if it is determined that the student is eligible for special education, consider whether compensatory services are required because of the delay in the evaluation. The district must send to the department evaluation materials and, if found eligible, a copy of the IEP documenting consideration of compensatory service. In addition, within thirty days of the date of this decision, the district must also submit a corrective action plan to ensure district staff properly respond to a parent’s request for a special education evaluation, and complete the evaluation within the required timelines.
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 5/20/2013
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support