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IDEA Complaint Decision 17-020

On April 3, 2017 (form dated March 30, 2017), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Appleton Area School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2016-17 school year:

  • Properly considered the results of an independent educational evaluation (IEE); and
  • Properly conducted a special education evaluation.

An IEE is an evaluation conducted by a qualified examiner who is not an employee of the student's school district. A parent has the right to an IEE at public expense if the parent disagrees with the district's special education evaluation. Upon receiving a request for an IEE, a school district must inform parents about where to obtain an IEE. The agency must also inform the parents of the district's IEE criteria. The district must respond to the request for an IEE in a reasonable amount of time by either providing the IEE at public expense or requesting a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate. If a parent obtains an IEE at public expense, the results of the evaluation must be considered by the school district.

At an evaluation meeting on November 16, 2015, the individualized education program (IEP) team determined the student did not meet criteria for speech and language or specific learning disabilities. On May 25, 2016, the parent submitted a request for an IEE to the district. In a letter to the parent dated June 10, 2016, the district granted the parent’s request for an IEE in the areas of speech and language and specific learning disability, and asked the parent to notify the district with the results of the evaluation when it was completed.

On August 29, 2016, district staff spoke to the parent about setting up a meeting to review the IEE and asked the parent to send a copy of the IEE to the district. On October 19, district staff reminded the parent to submit the IEE. The parent subsequently gave a copy of the IEE to district staff in late October or early November. The district worked with the parent throughout the month of November to set up a mutually agreed upon IEP team meeting date to review the IEE. On December 1, 2016, the district sent an IEP team meeting notice to the parent to discuss the IEE findings on December 7.

On December 7, 2016, the student’s IEP team met with the parent in person and included the independent evaluator on the phone. At the December 7 meeting, the IEP team carefully considered the IEE report and the parent’s concerns. The district team members determined that this information did not change the initial eligibility determination that the student did not meet the criteria for special education. The district properly considered the results of the IEE.

School districts are required under state and federal special education law to locate, identify, and evaluate all resident students with disabilities aged 3-21 , including those students attending home-based private educational programs or private schools within the district boundaries, 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, include the name of the child, and provide the reasons why the person believes the child is a child with a disability. A district must accept and process all referrals submitted to the district.

A parent may submit a special education referral to the school district. 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. 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 additional testing or notifying parents that no additional assessments are needed. The 60-day timeline may be extended when a student is being initially evaluated for a significant learning disability if the IEP team, including the parents, agree to the extension in writing.

On December 7, 2016, the parent initiated a special education referral for autism during the student’s IEP meeting. As part of the review of existing data, the parent was contacted by a staff member and agreed that additional assessments were needed. The district sent the parent notice and a request for consent to conduct additional assessments on January 4, 2017, which was not within 15 business days from receipt of referral. The parent received the form on January 9, 2017 and provided consent on that same date by hand delivering the document. On February 13, 2017, the IEP team, including the parent, met to determine eligibility. The IEP team determined the student did not meet the eligibility criteria for autism. The evaluation report notes that while the student has a medical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, the student does not exhibit delays in the area of speech and language, social communication, or demonstrate communication difficulties. In making this determination, the IEP team applied the eligibility determination checklist, and considered information from a variety of sources that included observations, existing data, additional assessments administered, and information provided by the parent. The eligibility determination for special education was completed during the February 13 meeting. At the end of the meeting, the IEP team discussed evaluating the student under 504, and a meeting was scheduled for March 16. At the meeting, the student was found eligible under 504, and a 504 plan was developed. Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district must develop a corrective action plan to ensure that within 15 business days of receiving a referral, the review of existing data is completed and the parent is sent a request for consent for additional testing or notice that no additional testing is necessary. No student corrective action is required.

This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed by CST 6/2/17
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support