On September 23, 2022, the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”) issued a notice regarding proposed amendments to the sections of the Texas Administrative Code related to special education complaints filed with the TEA. The proposed rules are currently open for public comment and are the subject of a public hearing on October 6, 2022. The only major change impacting special education due process hearings would clarify that summary proceedings in hearing may only be used when both parties in the hearing agree to use the summary process. This is significant because parties are currently able to file motions for summary judgment – which allows a hearing officer to rule on the legal viability of a claim without the need for a complete hearing. This approach can be productive and cost-effective for school districts, as it permits hearing officers to sift through meritless claims without the need for a full hearing. This is currently permitted in a due process hearing without the consent of the other party, and this change would require consent.
On May 6, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education announced its Intent to Strengthen and Protect Rights for Students with Disabilities by Amending Regulations Implementing Section 504, the landmark disability civil rights law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability in schools and postsecondary institutions. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) plans to gather public input on possible amendments to Section 504 to determine how to best improve current regulations to assist students with disabilities. As part of Mental Health Awareness Month and in accordance with President Biden’s strategy to address our nation’s mental health crisis, OCR will also gather input from individuals with disabilities who have mental health needs and their advocates.