Miles v Wachusett Public School District – BSEA #03-5677
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS
MILES1 v WACHUSETT PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT
This decision is issued pursuant to M.G.L. c.71B and 30A, 20 U.S.C.§1401 et seq ., 29 U.S.C. §794, and the corresponding regulations. Parents filed a hearing request on June 25, 2003 requesting that Miles be retained in kindergarten; see Hearing Request. Wachusett filed a Motion to Dismiss on July 7, 2003. A Ruling denying Wachusett’s Motion to Dismiss was issued on July 18, 2003 because Parents, in their opposition, had stated a FAPE claim that could have a direct impact upon the retention and promotion decision; see Ruling; Miles v Wachusett School District, 39 IDELR 180. A conference call occurred on August 1, 2003. The Parties mutually agreed to submit written documentation on August 18, 2003 and have a decision issued on that documentation.
I. Should Miles be retained in Kindergarten because his special needs prevent him from progressing effectively in 1 st grade even with special education services and accommodations?
II. If so, should Parents be reimbursed for their deposit to retain a space in a private kindergarten?
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Miles (d.o.b.) June 13, 1997 was a kindergarten student in the Wachusett School District. He is eligible for special education and is receiving services to address articulation delays that affect speech intelligibility and significant attention/organization and social difficulties within the classroom; see Stipulations 1-9; (P1, P2, P4, P6, S5). His current IEP calls for consultation and classroom services for behavior and consultation and pull out services for speech and language therapy twice a week (S11). The Parents agree with the services but do not believe that the IEP can be implemented if Student is in 1 st grade (S1).
2. In mid May 2003 Parents met with the school principal, the teacher, the school psychologist and the speech therapist to discuss the possibility of having Miles repeat Kindergarten; Stipulation 10, P3. The principal indicated that, while there was strong reason to believe that Miles’ lack of effective progress in Kindergarten was a factor of lack of developmental readiness and he would benefit from an additional year in kindergarten, the policies and regulations of the District prevent him from retaining Miles in Kindergarten for the next year (P4). Parents filed an appeal with the Superintendent (P4, Stipulation 10). The appeal was not successful.
3. On June 16, 2003 a TEAM meeting was reconvened to develop an IEP for Student. The IEP was designed to address Student’s needs in Grade 1; Stipulation 13. The TEAM members consisted of the Principal, who was also the TEAM chairperson, the school psychologist, the speech therapist, the classroom teacher, the parents and a special education supervisor (S11). The IEP noted that: “Student displays immature behavior…he needs to be consistently refocused and redirected to work. He appears to be inattentive when directions are given and often does not know what is expected next, even in routine classroom situations. He is unable to complete assignments independently and needs an adult to encourage him to continue” (S11).
Parents recommended that Student be retained (S1).
The speech and language therapist stated that it would be beneficial for Miles to be retained in Kindergarten because Miles displays immature behaviors and difficulty sustaining attention even in a small group setting (S12C).
Miles teacher also recommended that Student repeat kindergarten because he did not absorb the minimal skills that are necessary for a child to succeed in 1 st grade. She noted that Miles’ letter and number recognition skills were minimal, his attention span was minimal even with a reward system offered, he did not really interact or socialize with other children in the room and had a difficult time following simple classroom routines (S12D). She noted that “Another year in Kindergarten will not harm his [Miles’] development; going into Grade One too early could” (S12D).
The psychologist, who had conducted a screening in May 2003, noted that Miles was acquiring readiness skills at a slower rate than his peers. “His lack of progress appears to be related to behavioral difficulties in the areas of attending… motivation… and social skill development. It is difficult to ascertain if these weaknesses are primarily developmental in nature or are related to a more significant attention deficit disorder or a combination of both factors. I do not believe that retention in Kindergarten would be detrimental to Miles’ social and emotional well being. At the same time, retention alone does not adequately address Miles’ needs and he will require accommodations, supports and close monitoring of his progress regardless of his placement for the upcoming year” (S12B).
The principal originally supported retention prior to the TEAM meeting and does not believe that retention in kindergarten would be harmful or detrimental to Miles; see Stipulation 15, (S12A). In correspondence sent after the TEAM meeting, the principal states that he did not feel however that retention was necessary for Miles to make adequate school progress, as his progress appeared to have been primarily impeded by his ability to follow through on demands and expectations and to focus on the task at hand, areas that the IEP addressed (P12A). In correspondence the principal wrote: “There are potential advantages for Miles to be placed in the first grade as of September 2003. He will continue with his chronological peers, he will be able to continue to develop picking up on the progress he made this year, and the first grade program, because it is a full day program, will provide him with additional time on learning…All of the services and accommodations recommended in the IEP developed by the TEAM for Miles can and will be fully implemented in the first grade”; see (S12A).
4. The IEP was sent to Parents. Under the narrative description of the school district proposal section of the IEP it indicated: Wachusett …is proposing a special education program in a regular education environment …The District is proposing this action based on all information which was provided at the TEAM meeting held on Monday, June 16, 2003. Although Miles’ parents feel strongly that retention would be necessary to meet his needs, retention is not the District’s recommendation. It is clear that Miles’ speech/language and behavioral needs require support regardless of grade placement, and such support shall be provided (S11).
5. Parents applied to a private Kindergarten and were required to submit an application fee and a tuition deposit to hold Student’s space in the class (P1, P7).
FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
After careful consideration of the evidence presented in this matter I find that Miles’ requires retention in kindergarten in order to appropriately implement his IEP and achieve a FAPE and that Parents shall be reimbursed for their costs in reserving a Kindergarten slot for Miles. There is no dispute that Miles has significant attention/organization and social difficulties within the classroom. His teacher and speech/language pathologist and parents all recommend that Student be retained so that his IEP goals and objectives are implemented and he can progress effectively in regular education. These are the TEAM members who have frequent and consistent contact with Student. The psychologist also does not disagree that retention is needed and even the principal does not believe that retention will harm Miles. The principal does not have frequent or daily contact with Miles. As such, his later recommendations are given less weight.
Wachusett will implement Miles’s IEP in a Kindergarten program and shall reimburse Parents for the costs of holding a private Kindergarten placement.
By the Hearing Officer,
Joan D. Beron
Dated: August 20, 2003
Miles is a psuedonym used for confidentiality and classification purposes.