The New Mexico Public Education Department issued the school district a corrective action plan that will bring the district back into compliance. The plan gives the district a series of deadlines to review all special education students.
John Keenan, a former Piedra Vista High School teacher, filed a complaint against the school district near the end of the 2011-2012 school year that said special education students were not being reviewed in a timely matter.
The state investigated the complaint and issued the district two citations Aug. 10.
One of the citations was for failing to provide three-year evaluations and individual education plans to special education students. The other citation was for failing to implement the individual education plans for students.
The evaluations for special education students are done every three years, or as requested by parents and teachers. The evaluations determine if students qualify for special education services, said Phil Valdez, the director of exceptional services for the school district.
The individual education plan describes the additional services the students qualify for.
Larry Behrens, a spokesman for the public education department, said the department wasn't going to release how many students were lacking evaluations.
During its investigation, the education department sampled eight special education students and said three of them were overdue for three-year assessments. A sample of eight gifted students revealed three of the students needed an annual review, according to the department's letter to the district.
“We try to do everything we can so the district can meet the needs of its students,” Ryan said. “This was not a widespread issue.”
There are 1,900 special education students in the school district, which is about 18 percent of the student body, she said.
Both Valdez and Ryan said a high turnover rate among special education teachers and staff was a reason students were not evaluated correctly.
Ryan said high-turnover among those teachers was not because of the recent citation.
“It's a high-demanding job,” she said.
The district must check the status of all special education students' evaluations by Friday and evaluate all special education students that are lacking a recent evaluation by Oct. 19, according to the corrective action plan.
Keenan said he hopes his complaint prompts parents of special education to request their child's three-year assessment and the past two individual action plans to check to see their children are receiving the correct services.
“If I was a parent, the thing I would say is: ‘Is my child a part of this?',”he said.