IDEA Complaint Decision 99-028

On April 13, 1999 (letter dated April 12, 1999), a complaint was filed with the Department of Public Instruction by XXXXX against the Milwaukee Public School District. 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. During this investigation, department staff reviewed written materials provided by the complainant and the district and educational records. In addition, department staff interviewed the assistant principal, special education supervisor, two special education teachers, the parent, and the advocate by telephone.

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ISSUE:

Did the district hold an IEP team meeting on February 25, 1999, without a local educational agency (LEA) representative?

APPLICABLE STATUTES AND RULES:

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

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(1m) 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:

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(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.

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(2) DUTIES OF TEAM. The individualized education program team shall do all of the following:

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(6) 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 other 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:

The child whose education is the subject of this investigation continues to be eligible for special education and related services because of a severe emotional disturbance (ED). The child is a resident of Milwaukee Public Schools. During the 1998-99 school year, the child attended Sholes Middle School.

On February 25, 1999, at 10:00 a.m., the district held a meeting regarding the student. The assistant principal, a special education teacher supervisor, two special education teachers, the mother, the student, and an advocate for the student attended the meeting.

The advocate and the parent believe the meeting was an IEP team meeting. The mother states it was an IEP team meeting because she asked the special education teacher to arrange an IEP team meeting, they discussed several dates, and the teacher called the mother with a meeting date a few days later.

The special education teacher, whom the mother states was responsible for setting up the meeting, states he did not arrange the meeting. The district did not send a notice of a February 25, 1999, IEP team meeting to the child's mother. The district met with the mother on February 25, 1999, to discuss the prior suspensions of the student, police involvement in the student's behavioral incident, and parent/school communication issues.

During the meeting, the attendees discussed the communication between the district and the parent in situations needing police intervention. Also during the meeting, the advocate questioned the appropriateness of the IEP in effect on February 25, 1999. The advocate, parent, teacher, and assistant principal agreed to gather additional information regarding academic functions and schedule an IEP meeting. The attendees did not alter the child's IEP or educational placement at the February 25, 1999, meeting.

The district held an IEP team meeting on April 29, 1999. An LEA representative attended the meeting.

CONCLUSION:

State and federal special education law requires that a representative of the school district, other than the child's teacher, who is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of special education, participate in IEP team meetings. The district representative must be able to ensure that whatever services are set out in the IEP will actually be provided.

Here, the meeting held on February 25, 1999, was not an IEP team meeting. The district did not send the parent an invitation and the participants changed neither the educational placement nor the provision of FAPE. Thus, an LEA representative was not required to participate at the meeting. There is no violation.

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This concludes our investigation of this complaint, and we are closing this complaint investigation. 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
06/11/99
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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