IDEA Complaint Decision 99-027

On April 1, 1999, by letter of the same date, a complaint was filed with the Department of Public Instruction by XXXXX against Milwaukee Public Schools. This complaint alleges a violation of special education law regarding the implementation of programs for children with disabilities.

Pursuant to 34 CFR 300.660-662 of the regulations implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and ss. 115.762(3)(g) and 115.90(1), Wis. Stats., the Department of Public Instruction investigated this complaint. In investigating a complaint, the department reviews a district's compliance with state and federal requirements. In investigating this complaint, department staff reviewed relevant pupil records and written statements for the school district administrator.

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ISSUE:

Did the district conduct a meeting in March 1999 without the required participants to review and revise a child's individualized education program (IEP)?

APPLICABLE STATUTES AND RULES:

Wisconsin Statutes, Section 115.78
Individualized education program team; timeline.

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(lm) APPOINTMENT OF TEAM. The local educational agency shall appoint an individualized education program team for each child referred to it under s. 115.777. Each team shall consist of all of the following:
(a) The parents of the child.
(b) At least one regular education teacher of the child if the child is, or may be, participating in a regular educational environment.
(c) At least one special education teacher who has extensive and recent training and experience related to the child's known or suspected disability as specified in s. 115.76 (5) (a) or, where appropriate, at least one special education provider of the child.
(d) A representative of the local educational agency who is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, special education, is knowledgeable about the general curriculum and is knowledgeable about and authorized to commit the available resources of the local educational agency.
(e) An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, who may be a team participant under pars. (b) to (d) or (f).
(f) At the discretion of the parent or the local educational agency, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise about the child, including related services personnel as appropriate.
(g) Whenever appropriate, the child.
(2) DUTIES OF TEAM. The individualized education program team shall do all of the following:

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(b) Develop an individualized education program for the child under s. 115.787.

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ADMINISTRATIVE AND JUDICIAL INTERPRETATIONS:

34 CFR 300, Appendix C, Question 13

13. Who can serve as the representative of the public agency at an IEP meeting?

The representative of the public agency could be any member of the school staff, other than the child's teacher, who is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities¿. Thus, the agency representative could be (1) a qualified special education administrator, supervisor, or teacher (including a speech-language pathologist), or (2) a school principal or the administrator - if the person is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, special education.

Each state or local agency may determine which specific staff member will serve as the agency representative. However, the representative should be able to ensure that whatever services are set out in the IEP will actually be provided and that the IEP will not be vetoed at a higher administrative level within the agency. Thus, the person selected should have the authority to commit agency resources (i.e., to make decisions about the specific special education and related services that the agency will provide to a particular child).

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Letter from the Department of Public Instruction, August 5, 1996

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The law requires that a representative of the board (local education agency or LEA representative), other than the child's teacher, participate in each meeting held to develop a child's IEP. The department discussed procedural requirements relating to the development of IEPs, including the participation of an LEA representative, Exceptional Education/Pupil Services Update Bulletin 91.7, issued in May 1991. The bulletin states:

The representative of the local education agency (LEA) can be anyone of several people. Whoever the individual is, he or she must have the authority to commit agency resources, because the IEP is a commitment of resources by the district.

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FINDINGS OF FACT:

During the 1998-99 school year, the child who is the subject of this complaint was enrolled as a sixth grade student at Sholes Middle School in Milwaukee Public Schools. The child currently receives services from a learning disabilities (LD) teacher in the areas of reading, language arts and math. On February 9, 1999, the district sent the parents an invitation to a February 23, 1999, IEP team meeting to develop the child's annual IEP. The district's IEP team participants as listed on the invitation were the principal of Sholes Middle School, designated as the school district representative, and the child's regular and special education teachers. At the request of the parent, the IEP team meeting scheduled for February 23, 1999, was rescheduled for March 3, 1999.

On March 3, 1999, the IEP team met to develop the child's annual IEP. The parent, student, parent advocate, and the child's special and regular education teachers attended the IEP team meeting. The child's regular education teacher was in attendance for part of the meeting to address issues related to the child's regular education program. The principal of Sholes Middle School, who was designated as the school district representative to the IEP team, did not attend the IEP meeting.

CONCLUSION:

Federal and state special education laws require that the parents of the child; one regular education teacher of the child; one special education teacher of the child; a representative of the school district, other than the child's teacher, who is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of special education; an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, who may be another member of the IEP team; at the discretion of the parent or school district, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise about the child; and whenever appropriate, the child; participate in IEP team meetings.

The complainant alleges that in March 1999 the district conducted an IEP meeting without the required participants to review and revise a child's IEP. On March 3, 1999, the IEP team met to develop the child's annual IEP. All the required IEP team participants were in attendance at the meeting with the exception of the designated school district representative. The complaint is substantiated.

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DIRECTIVE:

The Milwaukee Public Schools shall, within 30 days of receipt of this report, submit to the department a corrective action plan (CAP) to ensure that all the required participants are in attendance at IEP team meetings for children with disabilities.

The CAP shall include the activities the district will undertake to implement the directives, the personnel responsible for each activity, the date by which each activity will be completed, and the type of documentation that will be submitted to the department as evidence of completion of each activity. If a CAP requires the district to develop one or more products, the district may submit the product(s) as part of the corrective action plan. The CAP will be reviewed and the district will be informed if any revisions are required. The district will implement the CAP after it has been approved by the department.

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This concludes our investigation of this complaint. This letter is not intended, and should not be construed, to cover any other issues regarding compliance with the IDEA or Chapter 115, Wisconsin Statutes, which may exist and which are not specifically discussed herein. Under the Wisconsin public records law, ss.19.31-19.39, Wisconsin Statutes, it may be necessary to release this document and related correspondence and records upon request.

signed JSP
7/16/99
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Juanita S. Pawlisch, Ph.D., Assistant Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy

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