IEP Spotlight: Transportation as a Related Service

Over the summer, we posted about the importance of and tips for successful IEP implementation and progress monitoring. This school year, we will post a series of articles focusing on the components of a great IEP. Today, we want to discuss an often-misunderstood related service: transportation.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities through the provision of special education and related services designed to meet qualifying students’ unique needs. The IDEA defines related services as “transportation, and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services … as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.”  In practical terms, this means that the ARD committee must determine if a student with a disability requires transportation in order to benefit from special education, and if so, the IEP must include transportation and the district must provide that transportation at no cost to the parent

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.

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. 

Great IEP, Now What? Implementation.

ARD Committees put a lot of time and effort into drafting clear, ambitious, and supportive IEPs. We attorneys spend a lot of time training teams on drafting legally compliant IEPs, reviewing IEPs, and negotiating IEPs. But what happens next? Implementation is where the magic happens. And implementation lapses are frequently where due process and state complaints happen. Here are five tips to support consistent implementation and avoid trouble.

Don’t Let a Complicated Divorce Complicate the ARD Process

Divorce often complicates everything, including the special education process. Parents of students with disabilities are provided certain rights under the IDEA, but what happens to those rights when parents are divorced? To ensure compliance with the IDEA, school leaders need to fully understand the rights of each parent to participate in their student’s special education program.

Biological and adoptive parents are typically considered “parents” with the right to make educational decisions for their children under the IDEA. When the parents of a student with a disability are divorced and share custody, both parents generally hold parental rights under the IDEA. These parental rights include notice of ARD (IEP) meetings and attendance at ARD meetings, in addition to making educational decisions and filing a State or due process complaint if a dispute arises.

U.S. DOE Emphasizes Obligations to Protect High-Risk Students as Pandemic Improves  

On March 24, 2020, Dr. Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education, wrote a letter to educators and parents emphasizing the Biden Administration’s continued commitment to providing services and supports to allow students with disabilities to learn safely alongside their peers during the pandemic.  This letter provides strategies for educators, Districts, and families to enable students with disabilities to participate in in-person instruction and to receive a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) in the least restrictive environment.  

Secretary Cardona first encourages IEP teams to leverage IEP and Section 504 processes to provide protections for in-person learning.  IEP teams (ARD Committees in Texas) and Section 504 committees must address school-related health needs of students with disabilities at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in IEPs and Section 504 plans and place students in the least restrictive environment that meets those needs. IEP teams and Section 504 committees should also consider whether students at a heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19 require a health plan to address preventative and risk-reducing strategies, such as proper sanitizing or physical distancing. When health plans are included in the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan, these documents must be provided to each individual responsible for implementing the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan.