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Summit School District failed to meet needs of a group of students with disabilities, says Colorado Department of Education

The Colorado Department of Education issued a ruling against The Summit School District in December.
Kit Geary/Summit Daily News
The Colorado Department of Education issued a ruling against The Summit School District in December.

By Kit Geary, Summit Daily News


The Summit School District improperly removed a specific type of class, co-taught by a general education teacher and a special education teacher, from the special education plans of ninth grade students “without regard for those students’ individualized needs,” according to a recent ruling by the Colorado Department of Education.

The issue was systemic, affecting 20 ninth graders with learning disabilities this school year, the ruling said. The state education department demanded Summit School District correct the violation, including offering the affected students additional services to make up for what they missed in the co-taught classes.

Most of the students in this case, around 80%, speak Spanish as their primary language.

The Summit School District said in a statement that it has “taken immediate steps to address the concerns raised and evaluate our practices for opportunities to enhance our service quality. This reflection is part of our unwavering dedication to continuous improvement and our belief in the power of collaborative efforts with our parents and guardians to foster an environment of growth and learning.”

The ruling stems from a state-level complaint made in September on behalf of a group of Summit County students with learning disabilities who graduated from eighth grade at the end of the 2022-2023 school year and now attend ninth grade in the 2023-2024 school year.

Originally, the complaint featured just a couple then-eighth grade students, but the case grew as the Colorado Department of Education began investigating.

The case began with allegations that the district was not following through on services promised in some students’ individualized education plans. These plans are created to be tailored to an individual’s learning needs. They lay out exactly what support and services a student requires to learn and how the school will carry those out.

In the students’ learning plans, they were entitled to “co-taught, push-in instruction minutes.”

That means the students would have additional support in their general education math and English language arts classes through a specialist who co-taught the class alongside a general education teacher. The 20 students were supposed to have that support in both eighth and ninth grades.

But the Colorado Department of Education found the district “removed 20 students’ co-taught, push-in instruction minutes at the end of those students’ eighth-grade year as a regular practice without regard for those students’ individualized needs.”

At first, the district reportedly told state investigators that it did not offer co-taught classes in ninth grade and any plans that stated it did “must be in error.” But partway through the investigation, the district reversed course and said it did.

The co-taught classes the district referenced, however, involved an English language development specialist co-teaching math and science classes with a general education teacher. English language development specialists are meant to support students who are learning English, not students with learning disabilities.

Reportedly, at least three students in these co-taught classes with an English language development specialist were fluent in English and were not English learners.

The investigation found that the co-taught classes offered in the high school did not constitute adequate co-taught classes as promised in students’ education plans.

Additionally, the state education department found that the district was falling short on another requirement included in the students’ learning plans related to services outside the classroom. According to the complaint, a handful of students were supposed to receive help with skills such as organization, time management, and self advocacy in addition to receiving help with classwork and homework.

The investigation found the services that the district offered in ninth grade did not meet the requirements detailed in students’ learning plans.

During the investigation, the district told the state that the discrepancy between the learning plans and the services was because some of the students’ plans were “in progress,” meaning the district was in the midst of meeting with students’ parents to sort out the details.

In its decision, the Colorado Department of Education said there are no exceptions for plans that are “in progress.”

“The District attempts to shift this burden onto parents, who are expected to attend informal meetings and sort out the discrepancies in person, with inaccurate documentation,” the ruling stated.

The Summit School District must comply with a list of remedies mandated by the Colorado Department of Education. One remedy requires the district to submit a corrective action plan that addresses how its noncompliance with the Individuals with Disability Education Act will be corrected.

Additionally certain staff members must attend training regarding the development and implementation of individualized education plans. The district also must audit individual education plans to ensure accuracy and provide each impacted student compensatory education services.

The district also had to notify the families of the students included in the complaint that they did not meet their student’s learning needs.

In a statement, the district said, “In response to the State Complaint Officer’s (SCO’s) decision, we are fully committed to implementing the recommended remedies with integrity.”

“Together, we are confident that we can continue supporting our students in achieving personal and academic success,” the district said. “Our commitment to our student’s well-being and growth remains our highest priority, and we are grateful for our families’ continued partnership and trust in this journey.”