PWN like a Pro

Does your team write prior written notices that communicate clearly to parents and protect the district in case of a dispute? Or are the PWNs somewhat lacking? After a long (possibly contentious) ARD meeting, drafting a cogent and detailed PWN can feel overwhelming. But its definitely worth the time and effort. A strong PWN can help avoid misunderstandings and provide compelling evidence in the event of a TEA or due process complaint.  

New Accelerated Instruction Requirements Call for Changes to Policies & Procedures for 2023-2024

In the wake of the pandemic, House Bill 4545 left school districts scrambling to figure out how to address learning loss for all students, including students with disabilities, through accelerated instruction. School districts were cautiously optimistic that the most recent legislative session would ease many of the burdens of House Bill 4545. In June 2023, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1416—otherwise known as the House Bill 4545 ‘Clean-Up Bill—which introduces new changes to the accelerated education environment. While House Bill 1416 narrows some requirements for school districts, it broadens others.  

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:  

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.