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.  

Are LEAs required to use the Legal Framework templates? No. TEA has specified that an LEA may still create its own documents or purchase a commercial product. Should an LEA create its own templates or purchase commercial templates, each template must include the four elements listed in the Legal Framework templates (i.e., Procedures, Staff Responsible, Timeline, and Evidence of Practice) and the required content set forth in the Legal Framework templates. All templates must be named in accordance with the names set forth in the Legal Framework Template Submission Crosswalk. The commercial templates drafted by the Texas Association of School Boards (“TASB”) satisfy these requirements. For more information on how to access TASB’s commercial templates, click here 

What will happen to the Special Education Operating Procedures our LEA has already uploaded? TEA has announced that it will erase all old uploads and uploads that do not comply with the Legal Framework template requirements on September 1, 2022.  

Looking at the Crosswalk, it seems like some of the subsections are missing associated operating procedures templates. Is that correct? LEAs should note that several Legal Framework subsections do not have an associated operating procedures template. Specifically, there is no Legal Framework template for the following Child Find subsections: District & Campus Improvement Plans, Parent Notification & Personal Graduation Plan, Closing the Gap, Children Who Are Incarcerated, Children in Private Schools, Parent, and Adult Student & Transfer of Rights. Additionally, the Rule of Construction subsection in the ARD Committee section in the Legal Framework does not have a corresponding Legal Framework template. Other subsections, like Least Restrictive Environment and Placement in a Residential Facility, as well as Graduation and Transition, are now combined into one template. And some subsections, like Summary of Performance and each of the 13 eligibility categories, are now included within other associated operating procedures templates.  

As sections that do not align with the Legal Framework templates will be erased on September 1, 2022, LEAs should thus consider including information from those subsections without templates into associated operating procedures templates, as appropriate, or just keeping the separate procedure, but not uploading it to the Legal Framework.  

Are LEAs required to draft any entirely new sections? Yes. Under #FAPE Least Restrictive Environment (1), LEAs must draft a new subsection, titled “Virtual Learning Days.”  

Our LEA spent significant time drafting Special Education Operating Procedures in 2020 that reflect the various sections in the Legal Framework, but they do not align with the new templates required by TEA. What do we do? Good question! It is important that LEAs understand the new requirements and begin reviewing and revising their Special Education Operating Procedures to ensure they can be uploaded by August 31, 2022. Should you need assistance reviewing and revising your LEA’s Special Education Operating Procedures to align with the new requirements, contact the authors of this post or a member of the Thompson & Horton Special Education Team.