Can Districts Still Find Resolution After a Due Process Hearing Has Been Requested?

School districts and parents across Texas are regularly working together to ensure that the needs of students are met and that the district is providing a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Every child is unique; likewise, every Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is just as distinct. When a disagreement arises and disputes occur, the district and parents have the ability to go through various dispute resolution processes. The Texas Education Agency encourages and supports the resolution of any dispute that arises between the parent and a school district relating to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of or the provision of a FAPE to a student.

Several options exist for resolving disputes at any level or stage. Some of those options include but are not limited to: ARD meetings; meetings or conferences with the student’s teacher, campus administrator, or special education director; mediation through TEA; and filing a complaint or due process hearing through TEA. Districts and parents utilize these formal and informal methods to problem solve and settle disagreements.

But once a parent has formally filed a request for a due process hearing, is there any hope left for resolution or are the parent and district forced to go through with a due process hearing before a hearing officer? The answer is, yes, there is hope for resolution before a due process hearing. In fact, the majority of due process hearing requests are resolved without a hearing.

Sports, Clubs, Competitions, Oh My! Ensuring Equal Opportunity to Extracurriculars for Students with Disabilities 

Bring on the extracurriculars! Educators, families, and students would likely agree – extracurricular activities are a significant part of education. Both the IDEA and Section 504 must provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities.  

What does this mean for school districts? A guidance from the Department of Education gives us some insight. First off, school districts should avoid denying students with disabilities the opportunity to participate in or benefit from an aid, benefit, or service because of the student’s disability. Instead, school districts must afford students with disabilities an equal opportunity for participation in extracurricular services and activities.   Remember that Section 504 protects the rights of students with disabilities even if that student is not eligible for services under IDEA.

New Year, New Responsibilities: Tips for Preparing Educators of Students with Disabilities for the 2022-2023 School Year

A new school year brings new students, new teachers, new IEPs, new ARD committees, and new responsibilities for educating students with disabilities. It is critical that special education teachers are properly trained at the start of the school year regarding their responsibilities under the IDEA and the students on their caseloads. These responsibilities, however, do not stop at special education teachers. Administrators must also make sure that general education teachers understand their roles in implementing IEPs. To make this hectic time a little less overwhelming, Thompson & Horton LLP has made a checklist for administrators and case managers to start the 2022-2023 school year off on the right foot and avoid potential legal issues during the year. 

Special Education Operating Procedures: The Hard Work Isn’t Over

By Dianna D. Bowen and Taylor M. Montgomery 

Thought your LEA’s Special Education Operating Procedures were good to go? You likely need to think again! As required by the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”), LEAs across the state worked hard to finalize and upload Special Education Operating Procedures for the Child Find, Evaluation, and ARD Committee sections of the Legal Framework by October 2020. At the time, most LEAs drafted separate procedures for each of the subsections under the Child Find, Evaluation, and ARD Committee sections in the Legal Framework. Since then, special education administrators have been actively working to review and revise these procedures to ensure accuracy and compliance with state and federal requirements while awaiting further guidance from TEA on drafting operating procedures for the remaining sections of the Legal Framework.  

But instead of guidance on the remaining sections, TEA has released a series of templates (the “Legal Framework templates”) relating to the first three sections of the Legal Framework. By August 31, 2022, LEAs must re-upload Special Education Operating Procedures in accordance with the information in the Legal Framework templates. This includes new naming nomenclatures, certain content/topics, and answers to specific questions for each upload. 

The Special Education Team at Thompson & Horton has been working with clients to ensure their Special Education Operating Procedures comply with the new requirements. Below are common questions and answers that we have been answering for LEAs during this process.