© 2023 Peoria Public Radio
A joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Illinois Human Rights Authority issues report on Dunlap school district's special education programming

Mike Rundle

Dunlap School District 323 has not correctly used Response to Intervention strategies to serve students with learning disabilities, but other allegations are unsubstantiated.

Those were the findings of an Illinois Human Rights Authority report issued recently from an investigation launched in 2022 following complaints of potential rights violations.

The district's Response to Intervention (RTI) plan stated that schools must "demonstrate evidence that early intervention has been attempted through a three-tier model before consideration of special education services."

The HRA found that was a direct violation of Child Find, a law requiring school districts to actively seek out and identify students who may be eligible for special education services.

The HRA said Dunlap should remove the clause requiring RTI before consideration of special education, and add a new statement saying that RTI cannot be used to delay or deny an individual evaluation if a child is suspected of having a disability, regardless of their RTI tier. The authority also said all Dunlap staff receive Child Find training.

A complaint that students were remaining in RTI programs for a significant length of time without evaluation was dismissed, but the HRA recommended the Dunlap School District create a tracking system to monitor how long students have been receiving RTI services, and evaluate children in RTI for longer than 12 to 18 months for special education services eligibility.

The HRA also found the Dunlap School District's behavioral intervention plans are compliant with requirements, and there are adequate avenues for parents of students with disabilities to file complaints against the district.

In a response dated July 23, incoming director of student services Mandy Ellis said she is overseeing the implementation of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, a system designed to introduce quick interventions for students struggling academically or behaviorally.

"I am confident in the direction of our programming, systems of procedures, and plan for the 2023-2024 school year as it relates to supporting all students," Ellis said in the letter.

She also sent a draft handbook and other materials. She said administrators, certified staff, and intervention staff will be trained.

An Illinois State Board of Education spokesperson said they conducted a site visit on May 17 and met with Ellis, superintendent Scott Dearman, and special education director Jennifer Hastings.

"We discussed their plan to address special education issues related to staff licensures, special education service delivery, support for students with disabilities, and family-school partnerships. The meeting concluded with ISBE reiterating its commitment to supporting the district with technical assistance," the spokesperson said.

ISBE also conducted a survey of parents in the district to compile into a report for the district.

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with donors across the NPR Network – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.