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. 

New OCR and OSERS Guidance Highlights Positive Behavior Supports, Safety, and Nondiscrimination

On July 19, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education announced the release of new guidance from its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) discussing public elementary and secondary schools’ responsibilities in meeting the needs of students with disabilities and avoiding discriminatory use of student discipline under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Department’s press release notes that these guidance documents are “the most comprehensive guidance on the civil rights of students with disabilities concerning student discipline and build on the Department’s continued efforts to support students and schools through pandemic recovery.”

Don’t Let a Request for an Independent Educational Evaluation Trip You Up!

To start, what is an independent educational evaluation (IEE)? An IEE is an evaluation conducted by a qualified evaluator who is not employed by the school district responsible for the education of the child. A parent or legal guardian has the right to request an IEE at public expense when the parent disagrees with an already completed evaluation done by the school.  

If your school receives a request for an IEE, you have only 2 options: 1) file a due process complaint to defend the appropriateness of the school’s evaluation, or 2) fund the requested IEE. But before you make that decision, you do want to check to make sure you are dealing with a proper request.

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.

Special Education Implications of Proposed Title IX Rule: Biden Administration Nods to the Complicated Intersections but Leaves the Hard Work to Schools  

On June 23, 2022, President Biden’s U.S. Department of Education released the much-anticipated proposed Title IX regulations. The proposed regulations are a major step by the Biden administration in its effort to overhaul the Trump-era Title IX regulations. The proposed regulations would make significant changes, including expanding the definition of hostile environment sex-based harassment; removing the requirement for a formal, written complaint; providing more flexibility in the grievance process for K-12 schools; adding new notice and training requirements; and providing explicit protections for LGBTQ individuals as well as students and employees who are pregnant or parenting. Additionally, the proposed regulations acknowledge the intersection between Title IX and special education laws but provide little guidance on how to navigate the complex questions that arise when students with disabilities are involved in Title IX complaints.  

Specifically, the proposed regulations define “student with a disability” and, to help ensure compliance with disability laws, require consultation between the Title IX coordinator and the IEP or 504 team when a complainant or respondent is a student with a disability. That’s it—An acknowledgment that students with disabilities may be involved in Title IX complaints and a directive for the Title IX coordinator to consult with the student’s special education team to figure out how to comply with both laws and meet the needs of the student.