Prepare for Additional Changes Related to Dyslexia Evaluation and Instruction in 2023-2024 

HB 3928, also known as the Beckley Wilson Act, is waiting to be signed by the Governor after passing the House and Senate. The bill originated from a parent-led, grassroots group named Texas Dyslexia Coalition and was strongly supported by other disability advocacy groups across the state. Although the message behind the bill was that it was intended to codify the Dyslexia Handbook and provide clarity for schools, the original bill contained significantly more onerous requirements for districts. With the work and collaboration of groups like TCASE and the voices of special education staff and evaluators, the final bill resulted in something more workable and agreeable for all. 

Don’t You Forget About Me: OSEP Policy Letter Sheds Light on Rights of Students Who Have Graduated 

Phew! It’s the day after graduation, and your school district is finally off the hook for a potential state complaint you have been fearing the legal guardian of a student with disabilities would file against the district for months. Not so fast! On March 30, 2023, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) (part of the U.S. Department of Education) released a policy letter relating to the rights of students who have graduated. Letter to Oettinger, which is dated March 2, 2023, addresses the following issues:  

(1) Must a State Educational Agency (SEA) resolve a complaint if the child who is the subject of the complaint has graduated? 

(2) Must an SEA resolve a complaint that alleges systemic noncompliance based on facts related to a child who has graduated? 

IEP Spotlight: Dos and Don’ts of Annual Goals

Today, we continue a series of articles focused on the components of a great IEP. We previously posted about the importance of and tips for successful IEP implementation, progress monitoring, and the statement of PLAAFP. In this post, we will cover the annual statement of goals, which is another critical component of the IEP. Like the statement of PLAAFP, the statement of annual goals is an outcome determinative element of the IEP, meaning it can be the reason a hearing officer finds the district did or did not offer FAPE. Keep reading to understand what is required and how to ensure every IEP includes an effective and compliant statement of annual goals.

The Supreme Court Finds IDEA Exhaustion Not Required When Parents Seek Money Damages Under ADA and Section 504

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held today that plaintiffs may file federal lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 seeking money damages without first exhausting the IDEA administrative procedures, even when the underlying dispute is the student’s special education programming. As we previewed in a post following the oral argument, this decision is a departure from current Fifth Circuit law and opens the door to parents filing federal lawsuits seeking monetary relief in special education disputes without filing for due process under the IDEA. As explained below, whether this path is truly advantageous for parents is uncertain.

Addressing Common Myths Regarding Accommodations Decisions and Implementation

Perhaps one of the most critical components of a student’s IEP, accommodations are designed to provide equal access to the learning environment for students with disabilities. Despite their importance, ARD committees sometimes gloss over this section of the IEP without giving it the attention it deserves. One cause for confusion is that the term “accommodations” is not actually defined in the IDEA, which may lead to disputes over what is necessary and appropriate to provide FAPE. To ensure that school districts make appropriate decisions regarding accommodations and comply with implementation requirements, we address common myths that we hear regarding accommodations and clarify the legal truth below:  

Disability, Race, and Discipline. What do you know about significant disproportionality?

Research shows that students of color, boys, and students with disabilities are more likely to experience disciplinary removals than their peers. Indeed, black students with disabilities are more than twice as likely as peers to be suspended out of school or expelled, and the rates in Texas are even higher. Exclusionary discipline means missed instructional time and is associated with an increased likelihood of dropping out of school and interaction with the criminal justice system. These disparities are troubling both for student outcomes and for district legal liability.

This summer, we posted about comprehensive guidance on discipline and students with disabilities from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS). We continue to anticipate guidance from the Department of Education and Department of Justice related to student discipline and race under Title VI. In the meantime, we want to talk about the intersection of disability and race: significant disproportionality.