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By Sue Moen 

Parent Files Complaint With DPI Against New Glarus School District

 

August 8, 2019



By Sue Moen

Last spring, a New Glarus parent of a special needs child filed a complaint with the Department of Public Instruction against the New Glarus School District under state and federal special education. The parent said that despite numerous attempts to work out the issues, the school had not addressed the needs of their child. The family said they were frustrated after not having their questions answered and sometimes being told completely different things by members of the staff.

In June, the DPI found in favor of the parent. The issues in the complaint included assertions that the school district: Did not properly implement the individualized education program (IEP) of a student with a disability; did not properly respond to a parent’s request for consultation from an outside behavior therapist; improperly shortened the student’s day; and did not properly enable a student with a disability to participate in extracurricular activities, including field trips.

When asked about the complaint, New Glarus School District Administrator Jennifer Thayer said, “The District cannot comment on matters involving specific students due to the need for confidentiality under Wisconsin and Federal law. However, the District is committed to offering excellent special education programs and services to students with disabilities as an essential part of the District’s overall curriculum.”

In the first issue, the student in this case had demonstrated numerous instances or attempts of leaving the school since the start of the 2018-19 school year. The student’s IEP identified that the student’s behavior impeded their learning and that of others. The student’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) specified that an assistant would be with the student at all times, except for when the student was receiving therapy and direct service from a related service provider or a special education teacher. In March, the student was left in a classroom with no supervision present. The student left the school and was missing for a period that may have been for a period of 20 minutes, or, according to some reports, 45 minutes. The school acknowledged that the proper procedures were not followed.

In the second issue, the DPI found that the school did not properly responded to a parent’s request for consultation from an outside behavior therapist. The parent emailed the district expressing a desire to have their child possibly work with a “psychologist or behavioral expert” in hopes of addressing the current behavioral concerns. Although there were discussions throughout the year, from September through April, the DPI found that the district failed to consistently provide its responses in writing either agreeing to or declining parents’ requests and the result was that the district did not properly respond to a parent’s request for consultation from an outside behavior therapist.

The parents also requested that the DPI look into the school’s procedures for shortening the day of a student with a disability. The DPI found that the student’s IEP plan did not contain a plan for the student’s return to school for a full day, nor did it include a plan to meet more frequently to review student data and determine whether the student is able to return to school full-time. In their decision the DPI found that the district did not properly shorten the student’s day.

The final portion of the complaint involved the annual three-day camping trip for all students in the student’s grade. The school district said that information regarding the trip was sent home in the student’s folder beginning in March. The parents said that they did not receive the information and only found out about the field trip the night before it was scheduled. The DPI found that upon interviewing staff, the district acknowledges it did not bring up the subject of the camping trip after the information packet was sent home. The district failed to properly enable a student with a disability to participate in extracurricular activities including field trips.

The DPI directed that the IEP team must reconvene to ensure the IEP includes a plan for the student’s return to school for a full day, along with a plan to meet more frequently to review student data and determine whether the student is able to return to school full-time that is not dependent upon earning back time. The IEP team is also directed to ensure the IEP contains any supplementary aids and services necessary to allow the student to participate in nonacademic and extracurricular activities as well as procedures for escorting the student if necessary.

The DPI also directed the district to submit to the department a corrective action plan to ensure the following: All IEPs are properly implemented; All IEPs developed include supplementary aids or services necessary, when necessary, for the student to participate in extracurricular and nonacademic activities; School days are not improperly shortened; and District staff properly respond in writing to parental requests.

The parents have spoken to the School Board, taken part in mediation meetings, and have said they will continue to work towards getting their child the best education possible.

 
 

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