“You only get one shot.” Or sometimes more… The Fifth Circuit finds an ADA FAPE claim may be viable despite an IDEA FAPE finding

The intersection and interplay of the IDEA, ADA, and Section 504 can be complicated and confusing. All three laws provide protections to students with disabilities in public schools. But how are their requirements different? And when can families go to court versus when must they exhaust administrative remedies? What remedies are available under each? A year ago, the Supreme Court decided Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, weighing in on when administrative exhaustion is required. That decision altered the paradigm of IDEA exhaustion and the interaction of these laws protecting students with disabilities.   

The Fifth Circuit recently joined the fray on this developing intersection of laws in Lartigue v. Northside Independent School District. The Fifth Circuit held that even though a hearing officer found that the district provided the student FAPE under the IDEA (and the student did not appeal that finding), the student might still be able to prove a violation of the ADA related to her accommodations. The decision scraps the previous understanding that the provision of IDEA FAPE was a defense to FAPE claims under Section 504 and the ADA. The school district has requested that the Fifth Circuit rehear the case en banc.

PWN like a Pro

Does your team write prior written notices that communicate clearly to parents and protect the district in case of a dispute? Or are the PWNs somewhat lacking? After a long (possibly contentious) ARD meeting, drafting a cogent and detailed PWN can feel overwhelming. But its definitely worth the time and effort. A strong PWN can help avoid misunderstandings and provide compelling evidence in the event of a TEA or due process complaint.  

FAPE Focus: Equitable Services for Students in Virtual Schools

You know that LEAs have child find responsibilities for students enrolled in private schools that are located within the district’s boundaries, regardless of where the student resides. And that districts provide equitable services to students with disabilities enrolled in private schools that are located within the district’s boundaries, even if the student lives in another district. But what if the private school is a virtual school? What LEA is responsible for child find and equitable services when the students and educators may be scattered across the state – or even the country?

Lights! Cameras! Action! (To Take Following a Request to View Special Education Camera Footage) 

Texas Education Code 29.022 leaves little room for confusion regarding the requirements for placing video cameras in certain self-contained classrooms and other special education settings following a request by a parent, Board member, or District employee. The law is less clear, however, regarding the parameters for responding to requests to review recordings on these cameras. This uncertainty often leaves school districts, particularly school administrators, confused as to how to respond to these requests in accordance with the law. Fortunately, the special education team at Thompson & Horton LLP has broken down these requirements and provided step-by-step guidance for responding to these requests. 

Free Personal Assistants for Special Educators!

Imagine a world where special education teachers have an invaluable assistant—a tireless digital companion capable of drafting IEPs, offering tailored lesson plans, and even communicating with parents. This isn’t science fiction; it’s the reality we’re moving toward with the growing presence of artificial intelligence in special education. But the science, so far, is imperfect, and users must guard against potential pitfalls.  

FAPE Focus: Interpreters

TEA recently updated the Administrative Code to provide that “All members of the ARD committee must have the opportunity to participate in a collaborative manner in developing the IEP. The school district must take all reasonable actions necessary to ensure that the parent understands the proceedings of the ARD committee meeting, including arranging for an interpreter for parents who are deaf or hard of hearing or whose native language is a language other than English.” This language tracks the language in the IDEA and therefore does not change the responsibility of districts but is a good reminder about the importance of parental participation, especially for parents who speak languages other than English. Additionally, take care to document in the IEP paperwork who provided interpretation services and note in the deliberations the questions and input of the parent at the meeting. Ask yourself: If a hearing officer were reviewing this IEP, would it be clear that the parent understood the meeting and participated?